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Isamu Noguchi: Master Sculptor By Valerie J Fletcher. Scala, 2004. 236pp. £35

review

Isamu Noguchi was brought up in both the US and Japan. For six months in late-1920s Paris he was an assistant to Brancusi, but he was also influenced by the Surrealists, writes Andrew Mead. A close friend of his was Buckminster Fuller. In a long career - he died in 1988 - Noguchi drew on many sources. Some people will think first of his akari - the sculptural paper lamps, designed for mass production, that still looked good in the Design Museum's Noguchi show in 2001. But as this book makes clear, his interest to architects does not end there.

Three things in particular stand out.

The first is Noguchi's feeling for materials, especially stone, which was often expressed by contrasting its natural and cut/polished states in the same piece. The second is how often his works are poised between abstraction and allusion. Third - and suggesting directions that designers could continue to explore - is his long-time engagement with landscape.

Some landscape schemes came to fruition: for instance, the enclosed courtyard for the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Chase Manhattan Bank water garden in Manhattan, and the UNESCO garden in Paris; others were frustrated (including a collaboration with Louis Kahn), or just realised as sculptures that might double as maquettes. Intriguing here are some illuminated, wall-hung ones, such as Lunar Landscape, 1943-44 (pictured).

Scala's beautifully produced book accompanies an exhibition at Washington's Hirshhorn Museum (10 February-8 May), but gains by featuring pieces that are always on show at the Noguchi Garden Museum in Queens, New York, which reopened last autumn after renovation. All its 274 works can be seen on the website (www. noguchi.org), which also has sections on Noguchi's treatment of materials: stone, steel, paper, wood and clay.

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