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Listening to Stone

The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi

Hayden Herrera

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Listening to Stone Download image

ISBN10: 0374535981
ISBN13: 9780374535988

Trade Paperback

592 Pages



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A master of what he called "the sculpturing of space," Isamu Noguchi was a vital figure for modern public art. Born to an American mother and a Japanese father, Noguchi never felt like he belonged anywhere and spent his life assembling identities in his statues, monuments, and gardens. He traveled 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.

Drawing on Noguchi's personal correspondence and interviews with artists, patrons, assistants, and lovers, Hayden Herrera creates another 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 like Buckminster Fuller and Arshile Gorky, and in his affairs with women like 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.

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."


Praise for Listening to Stone

“Herrera wisely used the biographical framework for Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi . . . And what a tale it is! One that Ms. Herrera tells with clarity and Measured restraint. Noguchi knew all sorts of people—important artists and architects, patrons and politicians—and met them in a world-wide variety of places. At times Listening to Stone unfolds almost like a novel.”—E. A. Carmean Jr., The Wall Street Journal

“Hayden Herrera's welcome and comprehensive biography of [Noguchi] provides a definitive portrait of a figure who, by the time he died in 1988, was seen by many critics as the greatest American sculptor of the 20th century . . . Listening to Stone is a complex account of a flawed and restless visionary.”—Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

“A passionate stone carver and a constant traveler with a notoriously complicated love life, Noguchi constructed, with tremendous vision, skill, and turmoil, dynamic outdoor installations all around the world. But as Herrera . . . so sensitively illuminates and assiduously documents, his mixed heritage and illegitimate birth caused him endless anguish . . . Herrera tells Noguchi's astounding, many-chaptered story of 'unstoppable creative energy,' fame, and perpetual alienation with thrilling narrative drive and deep perception and reinvigorates appreciation for Noguchi's searching and evocative art.”—Booklist

“Herrera delves into the details of the life of influential and enigmatic American sculptor Isamu Noguchi in this thorough and solid biography . . . Herrera's expertise and insight illuminate Noguchi's evolving creative process, as well as the full scope of his personal relationships . . . Herrera adroitly shows that Noguchi was more than just a sculptor—he was a skilled craftsman, a heartbreaker, and a philosopher of design. This biography carves a smooth portrait of one of the most prolific and original artists of the twentieth century.”Publishers Weekly (Top Ten Art, Architecture & Photography Picks for Spring 2015)

“A comprehensive biography of a sculptor of stone and space . . . Herrera gives readers an ample, thorough analysis of his estimable art.”Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt



When Isamu Noguchi was a boy of ten roaming the hills above the sea in Chigasaki, Japan, he searched for wild azaleas and rare blue mountain flowers to add to the primroses, violets, and daisies that...

About the author

Hayden Herrera

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

Blair Resika

Hayden Herrera