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Headshot of Tom Hill, a man wearing a purple tie and suit
From J. Tomilson Hill

The Exhibition – is an initiative by the Sean Kelly Gallery to bring their podcast, Collect Wisely, to life as a virtual presentation. Read J. Tomilson Hill’s essay on Noguchi’s Stone Embrace.

For the past weeks, each morning Noguchi’s Stone Embrace calls me to leave our bedroom and start another day in isolation in East Hampton with my wife and daughter. Other than walks on the beach, we have been confined to our house, which has afforded us the opportunity to look at the art in our home with an intensity and focus which we would never have in our “normal” routine.

This basalt sculpture by Noguchi always has something different to say . . . during a rainstorm when the wind is blowing at 80 knots . . . during bright clear days, as we see here, when the sun arcs over Stone Embrace and casts shadows on the stone at sunrise and sunset.

Working wholly from home, the hours seem to pass more quickly, and the days blend one into another with momentum. From my office, I look at the ocean, and I see what Noguchi sculpted in 1985 in his studio in the village of Mure, on the island of Shikoku, where there is a basalt quarry by the sea.

In our current confinement, I think about how Noguchi felt when he, as a Japanese American, voluntarily chose to enter the Poston War Relocation camp in the Arizona desert in May, 1942 after Pearl Harbor, even though he was exempt as a New York resident. A recent exhibition at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, Self-Interned, sheds some light on his feelings: “Thus, I willfully became part of humanity uprooted.” In many ways, what the world is now experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic, where many of us are feeling that we are prisoners, is what Noguchi felt when he elected self-internment. The difference is that Noguchi chose this path with the aim of working with the government to improve camp conditions for those Japanese Americans interned involuntarily from the West Coast. We do not have a choice.

With museums closed and exhibitions such as Judd, Richter and Jordan Casteel only open for a few days before shutting down, we have a dearth of opportunities to look at and experience art in museums and galleries. We are left with images and a virtual experience, as well as what is in our homes. Now is the time to look carefully at what you have in your own backyard and ask the question: “Is this work living up to expectations, as I look at it continuously, non-stop every day as we operate in isolation?” Noguchi’s Stone Embrace has only grown better with more looking and more time.”

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