In 1951 the Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi began to design the Akari Light Sculptures, a group of works handcrafted out of shoji paper that eventually comprised over 100 luminaires – table, floor and ceiling lamps. He chose the name 'akari' for these objects, a word that means 'light' in Japanese, connoting both illumination and physical lightness.
'The light of Akari is like the light of the sun filtered through the paper of shoji. The harshness of electricity is thus transformed through the magic of paper back to the light of our origin – the sun – so that its warmth may continue to fill our rooms at night.' (Isamu Noguchi)
Isamu Noguchi, born in 1904 in Los Angeles to the Japanese poet Yone Noguchi and the American writer Leonie Gilmour, studied at Columbia University and the Leonardo da Vinci Art School. He subsequently established his first independent studio and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1927. Noguchi became an assistant to Constantin Brancusi in Paris and presented his first solo exhibition in New York. After studying brush drawing in China, he travelled to Japan to work with clay under the master potter Jinmatsu Uno. His experiences living and working in different cultural circles are reflected in Isamu Noguchi's work as an artist. He is considered a universal talent with a creative oeuvre that went beyond sculpture to encompass stage sets, furniture, lighting, interiors as well as outdoor plazas and gardens. His sculptural style is indebted to a vocabulary of organic forms and exerted a sustained influence on the design of the 1950s. 'My Father, Yone Noguchi is Japanese and has long been known as an interpreter of the East and West, through poetry. I wish to do the same thing through sculpture', he wrote in his proposal for a Guggenheim Fellowship. Isamu Noguchi died in New York in 1988.