Robert Stadler at The Noguchi Museum

Unveiling “Solid Doubts,” a new exhibition that juxtaposes the late modernist icon’s works with those of Austrian designer Robert Stadler.

In the Oui Design spirit of unexpected combinations, Noguchi Museum senior curator Dakin Hart places the works of two designers from different eras and styles into direct dialogue: Isamu Noguchi, the late Japanese American modernist celebrated for his poetic minimalism, and Robert Stadler, a Viennese, Paris-based contemporary designer who infuses furniture with irreverent abstraction. In “Solid Doubts: Robert Stadler at the Noguchi Museum,” on view from April through September, each body of work casts the other in a new light. The dynamic surprised even Stadler himself:

Prior to this show, had Noguchi been an influential figure in your work?

I knew the museum before, and there wasn’t a single trip I made to New York without visiting it. But I found out progressively working on this project the different links between Noguchi’s work and my own. He was much more daring than I had imagined—he constantly played with expectations and deception. He questioned matters of taste, and he really pushed the limits.

How did this show initially come about?

I met Dakin Hart, and we had this intense and interesting discussion. He proposed this project to me, and began feeding me information on what he thought were the parallels between Noguchi’s work and mine. It wasn’t totally clear what we were going to do in the beginning, but it was Dakin who started pushing the project in the direction of juxtaposing Noguchi’s work and my own. There’s an intimate mix of installations across four spaces, including the garden. In one of them, one of my bigger works is accessorized with a Noguchi sculpture, which is slippery ground.

Did any of these combinations surprise you?

Definitely! I never thought I would see my work presented with Noguchi’s. But this exhibition reveals aspects of certain objects that weren’t surprising on their own, but when paired take on new meaning. There’s an object I designed called “Anywhere.” It’s not a lamp, but a device on which you can hang other lamps—it’s about intermingling with other designers and freeing a ceiling lamp from a static position. We hung a Noguchi Akari light sculpture—he didn’t call them lamps—and suddenly it had this Asian feeling, the connotation of a lantern. One of the main ideas of this show is that you’ll be able to see Noguchi’s work in a different light, and mine as well.

It sounds like there’s a bit of contradiction in the title, “Solid Doubts.” Can you explain it?

Doubt is meant in a positive way, questioning established ideas such as what art is, what design is, what is functional, and what is dysfunctional. And the adjective solid conveys a lack of conviction that things should be questioned. I like it when these kinds of contradictions come into play.

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