The Smithsonian American Art Museum has awarded the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art to Amy Lyford, professor of art history and associate dean of arts and humanities at Occidental College in Los Angeles, for her book Isamu Noguchi’s Modernism: Negotiating Race, Labor, and Nation, 1930–1950 (University of California Press, 2013). The text is a deeply researched examination of the early career of the Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Lyford skillfully illuminates the artist’s practices and activism through richly detailed formal analysis and reference to diverse archival resources.
The three jurors who awarded the $3,000 prize were Julia Bryan-Wilson, associate professor of modern and contemporary art at the University of California, 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.

Of the book, the jurors wrote, “Lyford tells an entirely new story about how art travels, and how it might be marked as simultaneously ‘foreign’ and also ‘American.’ 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 will give the annual Eldredge Prize lecture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on January 27th, 2016. For more information about the prize, and to see a list of past winners, please visit: