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Listening to Stone

The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi

Hayden Herrera

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A compulsively readable biography of a vital figure in 20th-century art and design

Also available as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon


A master of what he called 'the sculpturing of space', Isamu Noguchi was a vital figure in twentieth-century art and design. Born to an American mother and a Japanese father, Noguchi never felt like he belonged anywhere and spent his life assembling identities through his sculpture, landscape architecture and design.

In a career spanning more than six decades from the 1920s until his death in 1988, he travelled incessantly, from New York to remote Japanese islands, from Paris to Bangladesh, synthesizing aesthetic values. The result – massive sculptures of interlocking wood, Zen-like gardens of granite and stone slides – is now seen as a powerful artistic link between East and West. He also designed stage sets and a number of lamps and pieces of furniture that are counted among the greatest classics of modern design.

Using Noguchi's personal correspondence and interviews with artists, patrons, assistants and lovers, Hayden Herrera creates a compulsively readable biography of one of the twentieth century's most important artists.

Noguchi was elusive, forever uprooting himself to reinvigorate what he called the ‘keen edge of originality’. Yet Herrera locates this man in his friendships with artists such as Buckminster Fuller and Arshile Gorky, and in his affairs with women such as Frida Kahlo. Herrera reveals his playfulness and his intense immersion in his work, from designing sets for Martha Graham to creating the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York.

A rich meditation on art in a globalized milieu, Listening to Stone is a moving portrait of an artist compulsively driven to reinvent himself as he searched for his own ‘essence of sculpture’.

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'A fascinating read … Herrera writes with compassion and energy'

'Opens a fascinating window into 20th-century history'
The Art Newspaper

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 448 pp

Illustrations: 132

Publication date: 21 September 2015

ISBN: 9780500093986

Contents List

1. Parents • 2. Dear Baby • 3. Tokyo • 4. Chigasaki • 5. St. Joseph College • 6. Interlaken • 7. La Porte 8.I Became a Sculptor • 9.I Will Rival the Immortals • 10. Out from the Shadow of a Big Tree • 11. Head Buster • 12. To Find Nature’s Reasons • 13. A Close Embrace of the Earth • 14. Lonely Traveler, Social Lion • 15. Toward a Sculpture of Space • 16. Art with a Social Purpose • 17. Mexico • 18. New York, 1936–399. California • 20. Poston • 21. MacDougal Alley • 22. Letters to Ann • 23. Noguchi and Martha Graham, Passionate Collaborators • 24. The Rock and the Space Between • 25. Tara • 26. 1946–48 • 27. Impasse 28. Bollingen Travels • 29. Harbinger Pigeon • 30. Shinbanraisha • 31.Mitsukoshi Exhibition • 32.Yoshiko Yamaguchi • 33. Kita Kamakura • 34. My Solace Has Always Been Sculpture • 35. UNESCO: A Somewhat Japanese Garden • 36. Changed Visions • 37. Priscilla • 38. Working with Noguchi • 39. Levitating Rocks, Wings of Prayer • 40. Toward an Autobiography • 41. A Primer of Shapes and Functions • 42. The Wheat Itself • 43. Red Cube, Black Sun • 44. The Stone Circle • 45. To Intrude on Nature’s Way • 46. A Place for People to Go • 47. Imaginary Landscapes • 48. California Scenario • 49.Bayfront Park • 50. All Things Worthwhile Must End as Gifts • 51. Kyoko • 52. No Beginnings, No Endings

About the Author

Hayden Herrera is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo and Matisse: A Portrait.