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AKARI

   
 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being! 

   

 

  

 

The sculptor Isamu Noguchi brought to modern design a sense of Japanese aestheticism.  To him, all that was required to start a home was " ...a room, a tatami, and Akari."  We tend to agree… simplicity has never fit better with the times.  Akari, the word he used to name his lamps or ‘light sculptures,’ means light as illumination, but there is also the implication of the idea of weightlessness in the Japanese word.  Akari are eminently Zen in their simplicity and aesthetic beauty: light bounces off pleats and creases, creating a subtle canvas of luminous magic.

The influence of Constantin Brancusi, with whom he studied in Paris, is evident in that certain ‘rightness’ of form in their shapes, the sinuous beauty of calculated curve.  Noguchi is high modern precisely because of this marvelous fusion of material, shape, and light.

The Japanese-American Noguchi made his first Akari lamp in 1951 after a visit to Gifu, the traditional center of Japanese lamp production where lanterns were produced for Japanese emperors and ruling class as far back as the 16th and 17th centuries.  His own lamps, using the old methods of construction, were originally inspired by the lanterns used by night fishers on the Nagara River.

Noguchi essentially took a traditional Japanese craft and modernized it, replacing candles with electric bulbs.  The lamps are handmade and constructed of washi paper (made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree) over a frame made of bamboo ribbing, and are supported by delicate metal legs.  The frame is created over molded wooden forms and the bamboo and paper are both so pliant that Noguchi was not constrained in any manner as to the form of the lanterns.  The lamps can be flattened and packed away easily and an Akari in its simplicity and ease-of-transport is eminently American as well - perfect for that rootless America of highways and gypsy wanderlust memorialized in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 On The Road.  But high modern comes with a high price.  If one can’t afford the real thing, the spirit lingers on in Ikea clones and Target versions, which though never quite capturing the subtlety and rigor of the original designs offer up their own versions of a certain golden light.     

 

Visit:  The Noguchi Museum  

Buy:  Akari Lighting

 

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