Isamu Noguchi learned from Diego Rivera, fell in love with Frida Kahlo and left us one of the great murals of Mexico.

Today Isamu Noguchi’s mural is worth millions of dollars but his story is little known.

In addition to taking muralism to the whole world, Orozco and Rivera had magnificent artists as students who traveled to Mexico to be part of such a great school, where Isamu Noguchi was one of those artists who, after studying under the tutelage of the best universities, came to our country to be influenced and collaborate in the most important artistic projects of the moment, of which the little-known mural that Abelardo L. Rodríguez painted in the market was the result.

Who was Isamu Noguchi?

The city of Los Angeles saw the birth of Isamu Noguchi in 1904, son of the primary school teacher Léonie Gilmour and the poet Noguchi Yonejiro, he studied sculpture and art in France, China and Japan; where he acquired his particular oriental style applied to scenographic art, abstract sculpture, furniture and garden design such as the fantastic UNESCO rock garden.

At the beginning of the thirties, Noguchi had already done work, but he continued studying and learning about the artistic trends of the moment that came to be presented in New York, such as the one that a certain José Clemente Orozco took to Dartmouth College, he was so fascinated with the teacher Mexican who when he received the scholarship from the Guggenheim Foundation traveled to Mexico immediately.

Isamu Noguchi arrives in Mexico

When Isamu Noguchi arrived in our country Diego Rivera was in charge of the Abelardo L. Rodríguez market pictorial project for which he required the support of ten young artists to paint murals inside the building, the newcomer joined the ranks of enthusiasts who wanted to learn the technique of the master.

It was then 1934 when the young Isamu met the mythical master of muralism – and his wife. During the eight months that Noguchi participated in the market project, he had the opportunity not only to learn, but also to live with the woman who he would express was charming and truly attractive.

Frida reciprocated Isamu Noguchi’s enthusiastic affection, so much so that that year (1935) the Mexican artist produced almost no work, of the few there are a few little piquetitos, it is said that they were sneakily seen in one place and another so they decided to compare a department for their meetings, they even bought furniture.

Those pieces of furniture were sent by mistake from the store to the house in San Ángel, where Diego received them in anger and then ran off to the Blue House, where the lovers were. When the housekeeper notified Diego’s arrival, Isamu could barely get dressed and escape from Diego’s gun by fleeing through the roof of the house.

Isamu and Frida saw each other again until 1951 when she had to be hospitalized for the condition of her leg, there she also saw Diego again, who threatened him saying “the next time we meet I’ll shoot you.” They never saw each other again. Before leaving Mexico to continue what would become a famous artistic career, Isamu Noguchi left us his first great work.

The Abelardo L. Rodríguez Market mural

During those eight months working together with renowned and renowned artists, Isamu Noguchi created an embossed mural on the second floor of the market, for which he received fees from the Mexican government for 88 dollars of those days. The one entitled The history of Mexico is a great work of 21.94 meters long by 1.98 meters high.

For its elaboration in relief, Noguchi used brick and cement colored red (sponsored by the Tolteca company), to sculpt the elements that he would later paint in red and black colors that together with the sickle and the matillo immediately referred to socialism and communism. frequent themes in the works of those times.

Through various symbolic elements such as a swastika, skulls, cuffs, a cross, rifles, tractors, flasks, and even Einstein’s famous formula (E = mc 2 ), Noguchi recounted the development of Mexico in two parts that are opposed in color. and content: The triumph of work and The demons of fascism.

The biographers of Isamu Noguchi described how there is “a before and after Mexico” in the work of the artist who is most clearly seen in the speeches made in public space, he came to say that Mexico at that time was paradise for the artists because, even if they were foreigners, they were treated without prejudice and integrated into the community.

Photo by: Noguchi org

Perhaps because it is located on the second floor of the market, the extraordinary mural by Isamu Noguchi was neglected for a long time, since 2009 it has received several restorations and cares that today value it at more than 2 million dollars, a figure that is far from the payment that he received when he did it, even added to the 600 dollars he had received from the scholarship that brought him to Mexico and that in the end was not enough, because he had to sell the car with which he had arrived from New York to return to the same great city, leaving behind the untouchable Frida and a work that adds to our history of muralism.  

Abelardo L. Rodríguez Market

Where: Girón y República de Venezuela s / n, Col. Centro. 06000, Historic Center


The Mexico City Post