The modernist sculptor voluntarily entered one of the many incarceration camps for Japanese Americans and it was an experience that deeply impacted him.
Friday, March 17, 2017

In 1941, Isamu Noguchi was living in Los Angeles, sculpting portrait busts for Hollywood stars while getting increasingly acquainted with the rich and famous. Then the attack on Pearl Harbor happened — and five months later, the Japanese-American artist was residing in the incarceration camp of Poston, Arizona, enduring unforgiving dry heat, afternoon dust storms, and bouts of despair. His entry, unlike that of the other prisoners, was voluntary: as a resident of New York, Noguchi was not subject to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that forced those of Japanese background living on the West Coast to guarded camps further inland; but as an activist who felt he had responsibilities to fellow Nisei and Issei whose lives were torn asunder, he envisioned using his art to at least improve their living conditions.

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Claire Voon