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Grant number like: FB-50197-04

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Amy J. Lyford
Occidental College (Los Angeles, CA 90041-3314)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2005 – 5/31/2006

Isamu Noguchi, Modernism, and Politics of Race and Identity in the U.S., 1930-1950

Conceived as a book-length case study of Isamu Noguchi's (1904-1989) modernism, this project will investigate how Noguchi's sculptural practice and art-world reputation intersected with the issues of race, gender and identity in America of the 1930s and 1940s. It will describe how Noguchi's practice and career were impacted by common assumptions about art, race and national identity. It will also propose that such assumptions structured not only ideas about personal identity, but also the aesthetic and socio-political dimensions of American modernism in the 1940s, particularly the search for a model of abstraction we now associate with abstract expressionism. In its dual emphasis on the history of American modernism and the career of a single artist, my book will analyze how early twentieth century assumptions about race and identity shaped the formation of modernism in the United States. Through its focus on both Noguchi (an artist who, although one of the most famous sculptors of twentieth century, remains relatively unanalyzed in comparison to his contemporaries) and the complex art world in which he lived, the book will enable readers to understand how one artist navigated the difficult waters of cultural assimilation while simultaneously offering a picture of how modernism relied upon (consciously or not) stereotypes about race and national identity.