08 January 2007

Isamu Noguchi -- News, 1938-40

Isamu Noguchi's first major architectural commission was for this bas-relief over the entrance to the Associated Press Building. The building was constructed as part of Rockefeller Center and thus part of a progressive, large-scale architectural project.

Here the relief entitled "News" takes center stage. The stone walls at each side are like stage curtains pulled aside to reveal the main actors in this drama. The entrance simultaneously emphasizes the smallness of the spectator, the heroic figures above are five times our size, while at the same time engages the pedestrian in a away that someone entering the building can feel part of a much grander mode of action. The framing of the entry in stone with the relief and the doors set back in from the facade links the two to create a single monumental portal bridging the human scale with the super-human scale of the skyscraper, a wonder of modern technology in itself and a source of pride and symbol of optimism in the face of the Great Depression and developing war in Europe.

Many of the other reliefs and sculptures around Rockefeller Center feature mythological and/or religious personalities. Here the acts of man become larger than life, while being engaged in the project of recording and transmitting the "news," i.e., the latest goings on in our all too real world. Noguchi elevates the individual working together with others to describe and disseminate information to a higher stature on par with metaphysical and supernatural events.

Photograph by Roving Rube.

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