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Oral history interview with Isamu Noguchi

Noguchi, Isamu, 1904-1988  Search this
Cummings, Paul  Search this
Artists' Union (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Bollingen Foundation  Search this
Brummer Gallery (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Japanese American Citizens' League  Search this
Japanese American Citizens' League  Search this
Leonardo da Vinci Art School  Search this
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill  Search this
UNESCO  Search this
Barnard, George Grey, 1863-1938  Search this
Becker, John Bruere, 1915-  Search this
Borglum, Gutzon, 1867-1941  Search this
Brancusi, Constantin, 1876-1957  Search this
Breton, André, 1896-1966  Search this
Brummer, Joseph  Search this
Cahill, Holger, 1887-1960  Search this
Calder, Alexander Stirling, 1870-1945  Search this
Calder, Alexander, 1898-1976  Search this
Collier, John, Jr., 1913-1992  Search this
Covarrubias, Miguel, 1904-1957  Search this
Davis, Stuart, 1892-1964  Search this
De Kooning, Willem, 1904-1997  Search this
Duchamp, Marcel, 1887-1968  Search this
Egan, Charles, 1911-  Search this
Fraser, James Earle, 1876-1953  Search this
Fuller, R. Buckminster (Richard Buckminster), 1895-1983  Search this
Gorky, Arshile, 1904-1948  Search this
Graham, John, 1887-1961  Search this
Graham, Martha  Search this
Gregory, Peter Ronald, 1947-  Search this
Guston, Philip, 1913-1980  Search this
Hare, David, 1917-1992  Search this
Hasegawa, Saburō, 1906-1957  Search this
Hopkins, Harry Lloyd, 1890-1946  Search this
Itō, Michio, 1893-1961  Search this
Kahn, Louis I., 1901-1974  Search this
Kantor, Morris, 1896-1974  Search this
Kline, Franz, 1910-1962  Search this
Knoll, Hans  Search this
Levy, Julien  Search this
Léger, Fernand, 1881-1955  Search this
McMahon, Audrey, 1900?-1981  Search this
Moore, Henry, 1898-1986  Search this
Neumann, J. B. (Jsrael Ber)  Search this
Price, Edison A., d. 1997  Search this
Raymond, Antonin, 1888-  Search this
Reynal, Jeanne, 1903-  Search this
Rivera, Diego, 1886-1957  Search this
Ruellan, Andrée, 1905-2006  Search this
Ruotolo, Onorio, 1888-1966  Search this
Schoen, Eugene, 1880-1957  Search this
Shoji, Sadao, 1937-  Search this
Stieglitz, Alfred, 1864-1946  Search this
Taniguchi, Yoshirō, 1904-  Search this
Ward, Eleanor, 1912-1984  Search this
Zorach, William, 1887-1966  Search this
148 Pages (Transcript)
1 Item (Audio excerpt: 1 sound file (5 min. 29 sec.), digital)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sound recordings
Japan -- Description and Travel
Italy -- description and travel
Egypt -- description and travel
India -- description and travel
1973 Nov. 7-Dec. 26
Scope and Contents:
An interview of Isamu Noguchi conducted 1973 Nov. 7-Dec. 26, by Paul Cummings, for the Archives of American Art.
NOVEMBER 7, 1973 session: Noguchi discusses his family background; growing up in Japan; returning to the United States in 1917; his identity as an artist; Gutzon Borglum; Columbia University and studying pre-med; attending Leonardo da Vinci Art School; apprenticing to Onorio Ruotolo; quitting Columbia to become a sculptor; Guggenheim Fellowship in 1927; J.B. Neumann; Alfred Stieglitz; George Grey Barnard; James Earle Fraser; Brummer and the Brummer Gallery; studying at Chaumiere and Collarosi; working with Brancusi; meeting Sandy Calder in Paris; Stuart Davis; Morris Kantor; Andrée Ruellan; his work, "Sphere"; reacting against Brancusi; Eugene Schoen's; his Carnegie Hall studio; Michio Ito; Martha Graham; Buckminster Fuller; traveling in China and Japan; meeting Chi Pai Shi; John Becker; his works, "Play Mountain," "Monument to the Plow," "Monument to Ben Franklin," and "Orpheus" for Balanchine; designing for the stage; Audrey McMahon; Harry Hopkins; Holger Cahill; Mexico; Diego Rivera; Miguel Covarrubias; and the Artists Union.
DECEMBER 10, 1973 Session: His reaction to the Spanish Civil War- avoided direct involvement; Stuart Davis; Gorky; Andre Breton; David Hare; Marcel Duchamp; John Graham; Julien Levy; his artist friends dying at the peak of their success; Leger; Stirling Calder; associating himself with the laboring class; Buckminster Fuller; being American; expanding the possibilities of sculpture; his Associated Press Building project in Rockefeller Center, it being done in stainless steel instead of bronze; John Collier; Japanese-American Citizens League; organizing Nisei Artists and Writers Mobilization for Democracy; Jeanne Reynal; going to Poston, Ariz. to assist with American Indian Service camp under John Collier and becoming an internee there; returning to New York in 1942; Bollingen Foundation; trip around the world in 1949; and Philip Guston.
DECEMBER 18, 1973 session: Best work in studio; reaction against expressionism; artists protesting against the Establishment; his objection to the WPA, influenced by William Zorach; exhibiting in group show called, "Fourteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art"; show at Egan Gallery in 1949; accepting art in its most aesthetically pure form without reference to social issues; movement in Japan since war to get away from refinement of Japan; Yoshiro Hiro responsible for Gutai and the happenings; his work, "Monument to Heroes," using bones; his work takes years to do; materials used in his work; his work, "Cronos"; doing theater stage sets for the Library of Congress including, "Appalachian Spring" and "Herodiade"; wants a given space which he can call his own and do something with it, has to be a work of art.
DECEMBER 26, 1973 Session: Show with Charles Egan in 1948 arranged by de Kooning; applying to the Bollingen Foundation to write a book on leisure, which was never written; traveling to Italy, Egypt, and India for two years; being removed from the New York scene with Franz Kline and de Kooning; his light objects; sculpture as environment; respect for material; Mondrian and his art deriving from nature; his time in Japan in 1931; visiting Japan in 1951; working in stone; projects in Japan; Taniguchi; Antonin Raymond; designing Japanese gardens; discovery of Zen; Hasegawa Saburo; Skidmore; Hans Knoll; Edison Price; Italy in the 1960s; Peter Gregory; Henry Moore; Louis Kahn; UNESCO; Noguchi Foundation and Plaza Company; Shoji; Eleanor Ward; and his autobiography, "A Sculptor's World."
Biographical / Historical:
Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was a Japanese American sculptor based in Long Island City, New York.
Originally recorded on 4 sound tape reels. Reformatted in 2010 as 7 digital wav files. Duration is 6 hrs., 25 min.
These interviews are part of the Archives' Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
Asian American art  Search this
Asian American artists  Search this
Sculpture, Modern -- 20th century  Search this
Sculpture, American  Search this
Gardens, Japanese  Search this
Japanese American art  Search this
Japanese American artists  Search this
Asian American sculptors  Search this
Sound recordings
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
Online Media:

Jack Stewart papers

Stewart, Jack, 1926-2005  Search this
New York City Transit Authority  Search this
World Trade Center (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Yale University -- Students  Search this
Baxter, Violet  Search this
Egan, Charles, 1911-  Search this
Gold, Nancy  Search this
Goulet, Lorrie, 1925-  Search this
Kahn, Wolf, 1927-  Search this
Romano, Clare  Search this
Thomas, Steffen, 1906-  Search this
Toney, Anthony  Search this
Townsend, Rodman  Search this
Walker, Herbert Brooks, 1927-  Search this
Weiner, Sam  Search this
9.9 Linear feet
7.31 Gigabytes
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sound recordings
Video recordings
The Jack Stewart papers are dated 1926-2010 and measure 9.9 linear feet and 7.31 GB. A significant portion of the collection concerns Stewart's dissertation, "Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway" (New York University, 1989), related research, writings, and exhibitions on the subject. Biographical materials, correspondence, writings, printed and digital material, artwork, sketchbooks, and photographic materials document his career as a painter, muralist, designer, educator and administrator.
Scope and Content Note:
The Jack Stewart papers are dated 1926-2010 and measure 9.9 linear feet and 7.31 GB. A significant portion of the collection concerns Stewart's dissertation, "Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway" (New York University, 1989), related research, writings, and exhibitions on the subject. Biographical materials, correspondence, writings, printed and digital material, artwork, sketchbooks, and photographic materials document his career as a painter, muralist, designer, educator and administrator.

Biographical materials include a "Video Archive" in digital format, consisting mainly of Jack Stewart being interviewed on several occasions by Nancy Gold for her television show, "What It Takes." In addition to discussions about Stewart's career, the shows include examples of his paintings and murals along with views of him at work.

Correspondence mostly documents Stewart's artistic career and work as an educator and administrator; there is some personal correspondence, as well. Of particular note are letters to Rodman Townsend who commissioned a mural about the human brain; they discuss the details of the project and its evolution, brain research, and subsequent exhibitions of related paintings. Illustrated letters and greeting cards with original artwork are from Violet Baxter, Lorrie Goulet, Wolf Kahn, Clare Romano, Anthony Toney, and Sam Weiner. Herbert Brooks Walker sent several pieces of mail art and, while in Italy, collected graffiti information for Stewart. Letters Stewart wrote to his mother span decades; the best represented periods are the years he served in the U.S. Army and studied at Yale University.

Writings and notes consist of Stewart's dissertation ("Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway"), miscellaneous writings and notes, and art and architecture notebooks. Dissertation documentation includes the manuscript, drafts, and related records. Among the miscellaneous writings and notes - published and unpublished - are shorter pieces, articles, student papers, and teaching notes. Of particular interest are notes/instructions for a performance piece titled "Endless Subway," "Memories of Steffan Thomas" and "My Recollection of Charles Egan." Also found are minutes of Cooper Union adjunct faculty meetings (1965-1966), and reports written when provost of the Rhode Island School of Design. Art and architecture notebooks (5 volumes) were compiled while at Yale University.

Research files on graffiti contain many sound recordings and some transcripts of interviews with graffiti writers, voluminous lists of graffiti writers' names/tags, correspondence, notes, photographs, and a wide variety of printed material. Some of the material is in digital format. Stewart began collecting these materials as his interest in graffiti developed. They were used for his dissertation and material continued to be added after the dissertation was completed.

Printed material mentioning Stewart or containing reproductions of his work includes exhibition catalogs, posters, and newsletters.

Artwork by Jack Stewart consists of drawings, paintings, and one etching; also found are designs and plans for tables, murals, and other projects. Drawings include figure studies, heads, and landscapes; most are in pencil and some in ink. The small number of paintings are oil on canvas (removed from stretchers), and gouache on paper and board. Sketchbooks (44 volumes) contain mostly pencil drawings and sketches, and a few studies for paintings and murals. Two volumes include writings about travels and events; of particular interest are "Notes on Kline's funeral May 1962," "Visit to Roman Bronze Art Foundry," and "Notes on My Development."

Photographic materials consist mainly photographs, but also include digital images and 35-mm color slides. Images of Stewart include views of him with paintings and working in his studio. Identified individuals with whom he appears are: Regina Stewart (wife), Brandon Stewart (son), Lil Stewart (mother), Ninalee Craig, Irving Sandler, and students in Urbino, Italy. Photographs of artwork document murals such as Raw Material (composed of shirt labels), and Versailles Hotel in Miami Beach; among the paintings documented are State of the Union, Icons of Western Art and Revelation XVI-16 (both with keys to individuals portrayed). Exhibition openings and installations are shown in photographs, color slides, and video recordings. Also found are photographs of the World Trade Center site taken by Stewart in December 2001.
The collection is arranged as 9 series:

Missing Title

Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1926-circa 2009 (Boxes 1,11; 0.6 linear foot, ER01-ER02, 3.92 GB)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1944-2009 (Boxes 1-2; 0.7 linear foot)

Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1947-2003 (Boxes 2-5; 3.1 linear foot)

Series 4: Research Files on Graffiti, 1972-2010 (Boxes 5-7,11; 2.8 linear foot, ER03-ER05, 3.18 GB)

Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1945-2002 (Boxes 8, 11, OV 13; 0.7 linear foot)

Series 6: Scrapbooks, circa 1990-2003 (Box 8; 0.2 linear foot)

Series 7: Artwork, 1946-2000 (Boxes 8, 11, OV 12; 0.3 linear foot)

Series 8: Sketchbooks, 1951-2004 (Boxes 8-9; 1.3 linear foot)

Series 9: Photographic Materials, circa 1950s-2010 (Boxes 10-11; 0.4 linear foot, ER06-ER07, 0.208 GB)
Biographical Note:
Jack Stewart (1926-2005) was a painter, muralist, designer, educator and administrator in New York City. After developing an interest in graffiti in the 1970s, Stewart eventually wrote a dissertation on the subject, "Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway" (New York University, 1989) and was recognized as an expert on mass transit art.

Jack Stewart began studying art at the High Museum School in his hometown of Atlanta when he was 10 years old. At age 14, he began a 4 year apprenticeship with painter and sculptor Steffen Thomas. After serving in World War II, he enrolled at Yale University (B.F.A. 1951) as a sculpture student, but soon switched to the painting department where he studied with Josef Albers and Willem de Kooning. After graduation, Stewart began receiving mural commissions and enrolled in classes at Columbia University School of Architecture (1951-1953). His interest in architecture was tied to understanding how to work effectively with architects on mural projects. Later, Stewart developed an interest in graffiti which he pursued through graduate study at New York University (M.A., 1975 and Ph.D., 1989).

Stewart created murals in ceramic tile, mixed media and stained glass. In addition to mosaic murals, he designed tables with mosaic tops. As an outgrowth of his mosaic work, Stewart developed a technique for laminating stained glass onto plate glass that, by eliminating the need for lead, opened new design possibilities. Mural commissions included work for Hamilton Hotel in Chicago, Versailles Hotel in Miami Beach, Public School 28 in New York City, and several ocean liners. The most unusual mural, Raw Material commissioned by Cluett Peabody and Company, was composed of shirt labels embedded in acrylic.

Beginning in 1950 Stewart participated regularly in group shows and enjoyed solo exhibitions mainly in the New York City area. He also showed in Philadelphia, Georgia, Rhode Island, Mexico and Italy, and was included in exhibitions circulated by the American Federation of Arts.

Stewart taught at the college level for nearly thirty years, including: The New School (art and architecture, 1953-1958); Pratt Institute (interior architectural design, 1955-1960); The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (painting, drawing, human anatomy, art history, 1960-1976; Art Department Chairman, 1971-1976); International Center of Mythymna, American Division, Lesbos, Greece (summer school, 1962-1965); Columbia University (M.F.A. program instructor, 1966-1976); and New York University (drawing, 1967-1975). In 1976 he was appointed Vice President and Provost of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Stewart was active in several professional organizations. He served as New York Artists Equity Association Secretary (1986-1987) and President (1987-1989); President of the National Society of Mural Painters (1996-2000); member of the advisory board of the Steffen Thomas Museum and Archives, Buckhead, GA (1997- 2000s); and President of the Fine Arts Federation of New York (2003-2004). The National Academy of Design elected Jack Stewart an Academician in 1995.

Jack Stewart and Margot Schwarzhaupt, an artist, were married in 1947; they had one son, Brandon. Painter and arts administrator, Regina Serniak, became Jack Stewart's wife in 1976.

Jack Stewart died in New York City in 2005.
Related Materials:
Jack Stewart papers, 1926-2015, are located at Emory University Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.
Donated in 2010 by Regina Stewart, widow of Jack Stewart.
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. This collection is copyright restricted.
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Arts administrators -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Street art  Search this
Muralists -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Mail art  Search this
Art -- Study and teaching  Search this
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Graffiti art  Search this
Designers -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Sound recordings
Video recordings
Jack Stewart papers, 1926-2010. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
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