Isamu Noguchi, the son of an American mother and Japanese father, was born on November 17, 1904 in Los Angeles. When he was two, the family moved to Japan, where Noguchi developed his life-long appreciation and love of nature. Fearing the consequences of growing-up as a biracial child in Japan, Noguchi’s mother enrolled her son in an American high-school, only joining him in the United States a few years later.
Initially attending medical school at Columbia University, Noguchi also developed his sculpting skills by taking night classes at the Leonardo da Vinici Art School. Encouraged by his mother, Noguchi dropped his medical studies in order to pursue art full-time. Upon reception of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Noguchi left New York for Paris in the spring of 1927, intending to travel as far as Japan. While in Paris, however, he met the sculptor Brancusi and took up a position as his studio assistant. He ramined in Paris for two years, abandoning his plan for future travel, and cut his trip short to return home.
The rest of the twenties and the following decade were a time during which Noguchi explored his artistic expression, traveling and his lvoe for nature. This period of discovery, however, was halted by his voluntary entry into a Japanese relocation camp in Arizona from 1941-1942. (Living on the East Coast, Noguchi was not required to enter the camp, but chose to because he thought he could make life more comfortable by creating recreational spaces and landscape projects. Noguchi left the camp after none of his visualizations were realized.)
In 1949, after having a solo show in the Egan Gallery in New York, Noguchi left the United States again on a fellowship from the Bolligen Foundation. Traveling to France, England, Spain, italy, Greeze, Egypt, India, Cambodia and Indonesia, Noguchi used this journey to learn more about stones, historic monuments and primitive architecutre. This experience caused Noguchi to become more interest in the relationship between sculpture and architecture, reinforcing his notion that sculpture should play an integral role in society.
During the fifties, Noguchi was briefly married to Japanese film start Yoshiko Yamaguchi. It was also during this decade that Noguchi began to focus more on architectural sculpture, resulting in the design and building of bridges, gardens, and monuments. He also developed his paper laterns, which he named Araki (Japanese for illumination.)
In 1968, the Whitney honored Noguchi with a retrospective. Noguchi then spent the remainder of his life in New York City, opening his sculpture garden museum in 1981, across the stree from his studio in Long Island City. He died on December 30, 1988. In 1999, the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Japan was opened in his honor.