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Weekly Art Hit: Public Art’s 40th anniversary and ‘Black Sun’ by Isamu Noguchi

Noguchi_GCK74.081_IMG_9041_croppedIt’s the 40th anniversary of the city’s public art program, and we’re celebrating! Weekly Art Hit is featuring artworks every week from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s. Learn about older artworks, lesser-known artworks, and find new information on pieces you know and love.

The city established its 1% for Art program in 1973 through a municipal ordinance that required the city’s capital improvement projects to set aside one percent of construction funds for the commission, purchase and installation of artworks, stating: “The City accepts a responsibility for expanding public experience with visual art.” Today the city’s public art collection includes nearly 380 permanently sited indoor and outdoor artworks and 2,800 portable artworks in all media. The program integrates artworks and the ideas of artists into public settings—weaving art into our buildings, streetscapes, open space and infrastructure to create a sense of place.

‘Black Sun’ by Isamu Noguchi

To kick off Weekly Art Hit’s 40th anniversary segment, we’re featuring Isamu Noguchi’s Black Sun (1968), located at Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park near the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Black Sun is a ring‑shaped sculpture, nine feet in diameter, carved in Japan from a single piece of Brazilian black granite that originally weighed 30 tons. The finished work is 12 tons, with a basic form that contains irregular curved and polished indentations. Black Sun is a reflection of Noguchi’s interest in circular shapes and in outdoor environments for sculpture, which was stimulated by forms found in traditional Japanese gardens. The aperture created by the inner circle of the artwork focuses on a panoramic view of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains beyond.

In 1967, Noguchi was selected by the Seattle Art Museum and the Municipal Art Commission – the precursor to the Seattle Arts Commission – to create a major sculpture at Volunteer Park in front of the museum building. The work was donated as a gift to the city through the Seattle Foundation, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Noguchi’s sculptures and gardens are known and respected internationally.

IMAGES: Isamu Noguchi, Black Sun, 1968, Brazilian black granite, 9′ diameter, 3’ thick. Located at Volunteer Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Photos by Spike Mafford Photography.