Hanging at the Frye: Iconic Pacific artists & their Chinese muses

Two complementary Frye exhibits, two artistic conversations between East and West.
Two complementary Frye exhibits, two artistic conversations between East and West.

Expansive and insightful in its construction, the Frye Art Museum's current exhibits explore the working and cultural relationship of four artists: American sculptor Isamu Noguchi and Chinese calligrapher Qi Baishi, and American sculptor Mark Tobey and Chinese calligrapher Teng Baiye.

Born in Los Angeles to an American mother and Japanese father, Noguchi was primarily a sculptor, a pursuit he honed when, in 1930 at the age of 26, a Guggenheim Fellowship swept him off to Paris to study under Romanian-born sculptor, Constantin Brancusi.

Plans to visit his father in Tokyo afterward were disrupted when his father abruptly disowned him. Noguchi found himself in Peking, the site of the planned trip’s layover. It was there that he met Chinese calligrapher Qi Baishi — a meeting that turned a failed layover into a full six-month residency.

When the two artists met, 68-year-old Baishi was a highly respected calligrapher, chop maker and ink painter. Although Noguchi already saw himself as a sculptor, he spent the next six months in Peking devoted to drawing – the longest such period in his life, and the subject of the exhibition.

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