Lyford Wins Eldredge Prize


Prof. Amy Lyford’s groundbreaking book on the early career of Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi has been awarded the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art.

Jurors for the annual $3,000 prize called Isamu Noguchi's Modernism: Negotiating Race, Labor, and Nation, 1930-1950 (University of California Press, 2013) "beautifully written … This pioneering book will change how we think about Noguchi, modernist sculpture and American art." Lyford will present the annual Eldredge Prize lecture at the museum at a date to be announced.

Lyford's book is a deeply researched, interdisciplinary examination of Noguchi’s early career. Lyford, professor of art history and visual arts and associate dean of arts and humanities at Occidental College, examines Noguchi's land-based monuments and public projects, both speculative and realized, drawing on a wide range of archival resources, from images of the artist in his studio to never-before seen documents from his FBI file, to illuminate his artistic practice and his activism.

"The Smithsonian American Art Museum has always supported new scholarship, and thanks to the generosity of the museum's collectors group, scholars such as Amy Lyford can be recognized and rewarded for expanding our understanding of America's visual culture," said Elizabeth Broun, the museum’s Margaret and Terry Stent Director.

This year’s prize jurors were Julia Bryan-Wilson, associate professor of modern and contemporary art at UC Berkeley; Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, associate professor of American art and undergraduate chair of the department of the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania; and Kevin Murphy, Eugénie Prendergast Curator of American Art at the Williams College Museum of Art.

"Tracing the mobility of Noguchi and his work--from institutions like the Museum of Modern Art to an internment camp for Japanese Americans where he voluntarily lived for over a year during the war--Lyford tells an entirely new story about how art travels, and how it might be marked as simultaneously 'foreign' and also 'American,'" the jurors wrote.

"Her careful account of Noguchi's projects in these decades foregrounds the artist's persistent concerns about labor and contributes meaningfully to debates about the role of the artist within a wider economic landscape. Beautifully written and with urgently articulated stakes with regards to racism and citizenship, Lyford's book draws from and contributes to an interdisciplinary set of concerns within Asian American studies, critical race theory and art history.

"At heart it is also a book that grapples with modernism--its forms as well as its ideologies--to argue for a politics of abstraction. This pioneering book will change how we think about Noguchi, modernist sculpture and American art."

Lyford, who teaches courses in modern and contemporary European and American art and architectural history, also is the author of Surrealist Masculinities: Gender Anxiety and the Aesthetics of Post-World War I Reconstruction in France (2007). She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Kress Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. She holds a bachelor's degree from Pomona College, a master's degree from Boston University and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

The Eldredge Prize, named in honor of the former director of the museum (1982-1988), is sponsored by the American Art Forum, a patrons' support organization. This annual award, initiated in 1989, recognizes originality and thoroughness of research, excellence of writing and clarity of method.

Recent Eldredge Prize recipients include Wendy Bellion (2014) for her book Citizen Spectator: Art, Illusion, and Visual Perception in Early National America and Leo Mazow (2013) for his book Thomas Hart Benton and the American Sound.