Water Stone

Artist: Isamu Noguchi (American, Los Angeles, California 1904–1988 New York)

Period: Shōwa period (1926–89)

Date: 1986

Culture: Japan

Medium: Basalt

Dimensions: H. 25 in. (63.6 cm); W. 42 3/4 in. (108.6 cm); Wt. 1 ton

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1987

Accession Number: 1987.222

Rights and Reproduction: © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum


Water flows over this stone fountain almost invisibly. The fountain, created especially for this space, is one of the last sculptures by Isamu Noguchi, the American-born sculptor and designer. Noguchi made the work in Japan: the light stones in the fountain bed come from the Ise River, near the site of the most important ancient Shinto shrine in Japan, while the dark basalt stone that forms the fountain itself is also from Japan.

The fountain and its setting form an abstract garden that evokes the close relationship between interior and exterior space. The wood screen is an architectural convention dating back to the seventeenth century, whereby an interior view is focused on a specific frame of a garden. In Japan, gardens often contain a stone basin to collect water, conveyed through a bamboo pipe from a nearby mountain stream. But here, the water emerges from the depths of the rock, uniting the disparate elements of water and stone.