Studio Visit NYC: Masaaki Noda

Mr. Noda (2nd from left) explains about his work to the participants.

Mr. Noda (2nd from left) explains about his work to the participants.

“Studio Visit NYC” is our new program that a small group of people visits artists’ studios in NYC and looks at their work closely and hears about the process and concept of creation from artists directly in their working environment. Our first visit was the studio of Masaaki Noda, who has been showing his work in US, Asia and Europe.

His living and working studio is located in SOHO area of Manhattan. SOHO is the area where many artists moved in during the 1970s. After that from the1980s to the early 1990s, SOHO became the New York biggest gallery district where famous galleries such as “Mary Boone” and “Leo Casteli” were showing super star artists. Even though SOHO now became more like a fancy shopping district with many boutiques, cafes and restaurants, it still has ambience of creative place. Perhaps because SOHO’s famous cast iron buildings are so tasteful and a few high quality art centers such as “Drawing Center” and “DIA Art Foundation” still remain in the area. Mr. Noda’s studio is in the center of SOHO, where many artists nowadays cannot afford to live.

Mr. Noda's shelve in his studio

Mr. Noda’s shelve in his studio

After taking elevator to the 5th floor, we went through his living area first and then entered his studio. The first thing you notice in his studio is enormous numbers of small sculptures on the tall shelves that reached to the high ceiling. Those small models/sculptures are made with papers, clay and metals and they are the direct results from the artist’s idea through trial and error. Mr. Noda, who recently creates monumental large scaled sculptures in Greece, Japan and China almost every year, makes around 10 to 20 small paper models for each project. Then about 5 metal models are created by the metal fabrication company that Mr. Noda has been working closely before the final work.

Mr. Noda explained his sculptures in Greece with photographs. Each work is titled with either Greek mythological gods such as Hermes and Apollo or historical figure’s name like Lafcadio Hearn. When one participant asked question about it, he told that he studies history of the site his sculpture will be set in really well to try to understand their culture and place first.

Small sculptures on the shelves

Small sculptures on the shelves

Mr. Noda who is handling many sculpture projects now started his artistic career as a print-maker. After graduating from Osaka University of Art in Osaka, Japan, he realized “My work can’t be judged fairly in Japan.” and decided to moved to US. In1977 Mr. Noda moved to New York City and learned at the Art Students League of New York. While he was working various jobs, Mr. Noda tried to start his artistic career in New York City. He brought his print work to commercial galleries in the city and showed them to each owner/director. “Now no galleries look at your work if you try to show your work directly. You could do that then. Good old days!” Mr. Noda smiled. As a result, most of the galleries he had approached decided to take Mr. Noda’s work and he eventually got over 40 galleries throughout US. The sales of his prints went really well. Mr. Noda made a solid foundation of financial success as well as confidence to be an artist.

Mr. Noda (left) showing his early print when he made his mid-20's

Mr. Noda (left) shows his early print when he made his mid-20′s.

As his career as a print-maker became more stable, on the other hand Mr. Noda started feeling frustrated by time consuming process of print-making. Also, he always wanted to express more dynamic movement, deeper space and exciting balance. When he was working on two-dimensional work including drawings and paintings, he made a three-dimensional model and started drawing from it. Just because he wanted to bring deeper three-dimensional space into his picture. That was the beginning of his sculptural work.

Mr. Noda (left) showing various prints, water-colors and drawings

Mr. Noda (left) shows various prints, water-colors and drawings.

From “the Nike of Samothrace” of ancient Greek sculpture to contemporary conceptual artists such as James Turrell and Walter de Maria, Mr. Noda doesn’t hesitate to look at anything he might be interested in regardless of time and styles. However, he emphasized that he would like to pursue his own work without being affected by trend of art too much.

Also, recently he realized that some accidents might happen all the time when he works with other people for bigger projects. Mr. Noda said, “I enjoyed the accidents. Because accidents may open up the door to something totally new and unexpected possibilities. Idea from our brain has limitation. The important thing is how to catch the accident.” His flexible approach has executed an exciting transformation freely from two-dimensional to three, another one from three-dimensional to two. For example, first he made a small metal sculpture and then he drew a picture from it. Then he scanned the sculpture itself and manipulated the images with a computer technician and created the oddly contemporary looking piece you might call photograph or computer graphic. He is now working on the public piece with this idea.

Small metal sculptures by Mr. Noda

Small metal sculptures by Mr. Noda

Drawing from sculptures (Photo: Masaaki Noda)

Drawing from sculptures (Photo: Masaaki Noda)

Mr. Noda (left) explaing the work from scanning his own sculpture

Mr. Noda explains the work from scanning his own sculpture.

By replying many questions from the participants, Mr. Noda explained what he has been creating and what he wanted to achieve with showing many of his works. “Now I recall my frustration of time consuming process and limitation of expression that I felt during my print-maker era directly caused more free way of expression now.”

Mr. Noda also indicated difficulty of surviving through the art world in US. “When I got more than 40 galleries, I thought I don’t have to worry about my future. But any of the galleries which represented me then don’t even exist any more. If I would keep producing only print, I couldn’t stay in New York. Also, the bigger my project become the more I realize how important human communication and trust relationship are.” Now his partners are much less, but they are the people that he can really trust such as several art producers and the gallery in New York City. Mr. Noda, who has been working in this studio for 35 years, will be creating and developing his work freely and energetically from here.

Masaaki Noda:

Originally from Hiroshima, lives and works in New York. After graduating from Osaka University of Art, Osaka, in1977 moved to New York City and learned at the Art Students League of New York. Noda has had solo exhibitions in US, Asia and Europe. Addition to his long career as a painter and print-maker, recently Noda has been creating large scale, Stainless Steel Sculptures in Greece, Japan and China. His commissioned work includes; “The Spirit of Hermes”, Marathon Stadium, Marathon Municipality, Greece,  ”Gale Flash Back”, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima and “Lafcadio Hearn-Odyssey of an Open Mind”,  Lafcadio Hearn Historical Center, Lefkas, Greece among others.