Alexander Calder, Nineteen White Discs, 1961. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, gift of Ruth Horwich. © 2010 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Alexander Calder, Black: 17 Dots, 1959. The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan. © 2010 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Nathan Carter, TYROLEAN ALPINE WIRELESS STATIONS MERANO TRENTO BOLZANO CORTINA D'AMPEZZO SARENTINO READY FOR RADIO CHECK, 2009. Courtesy of the Artist and Casey Kaplan, NY.

Alexander Calder and Contemporary Sculpture; Form, Balance, and Joy

Aaron Curry, Deft Compostion (Deft Composition), 2009 (detail). Private Collection, Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York. Photographer: Fredrik Nilsen.

Alexander Calder, Four Boomerangs, 1954. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, gift of Ruth Horwich. © 2010 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Alexander Calder, Mobile, 1948. Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. © 2010 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Alexander Calder, Bird, 1952. The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan. © 2010 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Abraham Cruzvillegas, Bougie du Isthmus, 2005, on view at Atelier Calder, Saché, France, 2006. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, restricted gift of Collectors' Forum in memory of Phil Shorr. Photo courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City.

Martin Boyce, Broken Branches and Flyovers, 2007. Photo by Fabien Birgfeld, PhotoTECTONIC. Courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Modern Institute/Toby Webster, Ltd., Glasgow.

Martin Boyce, Fear Meets the Soul, 2008. Photo by Jean Vong. Courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Modern Institute/Toby Webster, Ltd., Glasgow.

Kristi Lippire, Hanging Garden, 2006. Courtesy of the artist.

Nathan Carter, BRAVO LIMA UDON ELEPHANT, 2009. Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York.

Martin Boyce, Concrete Autumn (Dead Leaves. No Ground), 2006. Installation view Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York. Courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Modern Institute/Toby Webster, Ltd., Glasgow.

Jason Meadows, Artemis, 2004. Collection of the Tate Modern, London.

Kristi Lippire, Three Under Parr, 2008. Courtesy of the artist.

 

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Avenue
312-280-2660
Chicago

Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art:
Form, Balance, Joy
June 26-October 17, 2010

Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy, the first exhibition to assess Calder’s influence on the new generation of contemporary sculptors, presents 60 of Calder's iconic works mounted along with approximately 20 sculptures by seven contemporary artists who have been directly influenced by Calder: Martin Boyce, Nathan Carter, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Aaron Curry, Kristi Lippire, Jason Meadows, and Jason Middlebrook.

Calder has long been a popular and beloved modernist master, but it is only recently that young contemporary artists have turned to his work and its example of hands-on explorations of form, balance, color, and movement. "One of the most vital and interesting dialogues happening in the art world today is how the influence of the modernist generation of artists is increasingly becoming the basis for the creation of relevant and compelling art by contemporary artists," says MCA Curator Lynne Warren.

The selection of Calder's works range from the 1940s to 1970s and are drawn from the MCA's extensive holdings that span his career, complemented by a remarkable array of works drawn from private collections in Chicago and major American public and private collections.

Alexander Calder Throughout his long career, Calder combined playful subject matter, primary colors, and organic and geometric shapes to create accessible works that are witty and buoyantly full of life. This range and resourcefulness is grounded in recurring artistic concerns, in particular the relation between form, mass, and movement. The exhibition presents a range of Calder's classic mobiles —- kinetic sculptures made of balanced parts capable of motion; stabiles -— self-supporting, static, abstract sculptures; and bronze sculptures.

Calder’s development of the mobile came to distinguish him as an innovator whose artworks respond to the environment and natural flow of air as visitors move through the space. For this exhibition, Lynne Warren has looked at historical exhibitions of Calder's work to design an installation that optimizes the effects of air currents to move the works.

Calder estimated that he created over 2,000 mobiles. He rarely planned a work beforehand, preferring to work directly with the material, cutting, shaping, balancing, and counterbalancing as he went along. Calder's mobiles take a number of forms: the stationary Little Face (c.1943) with its movable features; familiar hanging mobiles such as Blue among Yellow and Red (1963); and standing mobiles like the figurative Chat-Mobile (Cat Mobile) (1966) and the more abstract Snowflakes and Red Stop (1964).

Calder hand-painted most of his works with small brushes, except for the playful series of bird creatures made from coffee and beer cans, such as Bird (c.1952). Calder inventively reused everyday materials found in his home, garden, and pond in Roxbury, Connecticut, which foreshadowed a 21st-century awareness of the need to reuse and recycle materials.

This exhibition is also a fitting homage to Chicago and its longstanding commitment to the work of Calder. In October 1974, in conjunction with a Calder retrospective at the MCA, the city celebrated "Alexander Calder Day" with a large circus parade and the dedications of the motorized Universe mobile at the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, and the monumental stabile Flamingo, at the Federal Center Plaza.

Seven Contemporary Sculptors This exhibition is an opportunity to see the work of Calder anew, through the eyes of ontemporary artists who explore structure and balance, in many cases handcrafting their aterials into expressive artworks. The seven contemporary artists have groupings of one to four works each, depending on the size and scale of their work. In addition, the MCA Sculpture arden features works by Calder, Kristi Lippire, and Aaron Curry. In the central atrium, bridging he two sides of the exhibition, is a major commissioned work by Jason Middlebrook. His large obile, titled •From the Forest to the Mill to the Store to the Home to the Streets and Back gain•, has a massive tree trunk on one side, balanced by a large starburst element (made uring his residency at Little Black Pearl, a community arts organization with which the MCA artnered on this commission) composed of found pieces of milled wood from the streets and back alleys of Chicago.

Martin Boyce With references to Minimalism and Art Deco, the work of Martin Boyce examines the aesthetics of modern sculpture, furniture, and architecture. The Scottish artist, who recently represented his country at the 2009 Venice Biennale, explores the functionality of design using formal strategies of geometry and repetition. Much of Boyce’s works feature materials associated with modernity, including fluorescent lights and powder-coated steel. In •Fear Meets the Soul• (2008), for example, Boyce's work closely mimics Calder's early mobiles.

Nathan Carter The vivid work of Nathan Carter draws on a variety of influences from science fiction to comic books to the work of artists David Smith and Stuart Davis. Featuring whimsically absurd titles, his sculpture and wall hangings are fashioned from industrial and found materials that create a myriad of geometric shapes and dynamic lines. With the inclusion of imagery such as zeppelins, rockets, and animals, as well as text, Carter’s work has a welcoming playfulness. His constructions strongly resemble the simple wire-shaped works of Calder that perch atop or hang from a wire suspended between wooden forms.

Abraham Cruzvillegas Abraham Cruzvillegas constructs poignant sculptures from everyday objects. By using found or discarded items that are often part of the urban landscapes in which he works, including Mexico City and Paris, he imbues each piece with a unique personal narrative. Cruzvillegas was a recipient of an Atelier Calder residency in France and created the work Bougie du Isthmus (2005) during his time there. His later work increasingly deals with balance and actual or implied movement. Most recently, his stacks of cast-off wooden objects and other found items show a deeper resonance with Calder’s work.

Aaron Curry The work of Aaron Curry uses elements of popular culture and media to reconsider tropes and themes of art history. He looks to modernist sculpture by artists such as Jean Arp, Joan Miró, and Jean Dubuffet as points of departure when creating his constructions that blur the line between gravity and weightlessness. The human and animal forms that Calder explored in a group of bronzes from the 1930s are especially inspirational to Curry in his use of organic, balanced forms.

Kristi Lippire Kristi Lippire reclaims banal, everyday materials and uses them to create playful, tongue-in-cheek works of art. From creating a bundle of balloons out of concrete and steel, to using steel colanders to create a flock of fluttering geese, her works are filled with a whimsical sense of humor that recall Calder's engagement with the natural world of birds, snowflakes, and animals. Lippire's work takes influence from modern sculptors like Calder and Niki de Saint Phalle, but also Latin American folk art and contemporary art history.

Jason Meadows In his work, Jason Meadows depicts iconic subject material with common materials. Sculptures of Greek mythological beings composed of particle board, and a Spiderman constructed from basketball nets that represent the superhero’s characteristic web- slinging ability exemplify Meadows’ oeuvre. He also explores the idea of functionality, reconfiguring or recreating everyday objects from decidedly unsophisticated materials in ways that deny their implied purpose.

Jason Middlebrook Jason Middlebrook explores notions of waste, refuse, and reuse. In previous projects such as a recent one in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, he has sought to reclaim discarded materials in order to create art and objects of use to the local community. A versatile artist, Middlebrook's work includes sculpture, drawings, and site-specific installations that address man’s relationship to the natural landscape. Middlebrook says, “In studying this artist to learn how to fashion my work, I became very fascinated by Calder. Calder seems like such a generous artist to me, an artist totally into beauty, which really appeals to me.”

After its run at the Museum of Contemporary art in Chicago, Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy travels to Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas (December 11, 2010-March 6, 2011); Orange County Museum, Newport Beach, California.

A fully illustrated catalogue published by Thames & Hudson features a plate section on Calder and each of the younger sculptors. Three essays are included: an overview by MCA Curator Lynne Warren; a re-examination of Calder and modern sculpture by George Baker, Associate Professor of Art History at UCLA; and an investigation by Brooke Kamin Rapaport into a new area of Calder scholarship —- the artist’s creative reuse of everyday materials as a particular inspiration to the current generation of sculptors. Each of the contemporary artists has an individual section with an essay, exhibition history, and bibliography. The catalogue includes 80 images (plates and reference photos; color and black-and-white).

Alexander Calder, Orange Paddle under the Table, 1949. The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan. © 2010 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Alexander Calder, Little Face, c.1943. The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan. © 2010 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Aaron Curry, Deft Compostion (Deft Composition), 2009 (detail). Private Collection, Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York. Photographer: Fredrik Nilsen.

Kristi Lippire, Fumigated Sculpture, 2006. Courtesy of the artist.

Jason Meadows, Burlesque Fragments, 2006. Courtesy of the artist and Marc Foxx Gallery.

Aaron Curry, Deft Compostion (Deft Composition), 2009. Private Collection, Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York. Photographer: Fredrik Nilsen.

Aaron Curry, Bones (Standing), 2009. Private Collection, London. Photographer: Fredrik Nilsen.

Alexander Calder, Les Mouettes (The Seagulls), Painted sheet metal, metal rods and steel wire, 20 x 103½ x 48 inches. Museum of contemporary Art Chicago. The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan (EL1995.15). © 2012 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo by Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Nathan Carter, TRAVELING LANGUAGE MACHINE WITH #3 FREQUENCY DISRUPTOR AND DISINFORMATION NUMBERS STATION, 2007. Courtesy of the Artist and Casey Kaplan, NY.

Aaron Curry, Danny Skullface Sky Boat (Reclining), 2009 (detail). The Hall Collection. Photographer: Fredrik Nilsen.

 

Alexander Calder, Snowflakes and Red Stop, 1964. The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan. © 2010 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Unknown photographer, Alexander Calder with Josephine Baker during the filming of a Pathé newsreel, 1929, Calder Foundation, New York.

Alexander Calder, Little Clown, the Trumpeteer, and Bearded Lady from Calder’s Circus, 1926-31, Wire, cloth, paint, yarn, thread, rhinestone buttons, electrical tape, rubber tubing, and metal horn, 12 x 3-1/2 x 3", Wire, cork, leather, paint, cardboard, and cloth, 11-1/8 x 6-1/2 x 3-1/4", Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 83.36.8a-c and 83.36.2, Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins.

Alexander Calder, Tight Rope Artists from Calder’s Circus, 1926-31, Wire, cloth, graphite, leather, lead, paint, and string, dimensions variable, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 83.36.48 and 83.36.50, Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins.

When Alexander Calder Found His Way … to the Circus, 1926-1933

Alexander Calder, Dog, 1926-31, Wood, clothespin, and wire, 3-7/8 x 5-5/8 x 1-1/2", Calder Foundation, New York.

The five suitcases in which Calder transported his Circus, 1926-1931, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 83.36.65-69a-d, Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins.

Alexander Calder, Two Spheres within a Sphere, 1931, Wire, wood, and paint, 37-1/2 x 32 x 14", Calder Foundation, New York.

Alexander Calder, Cône d'ébène, 1933, Wood, rod, wire, and paint, 106 x 55 x 24", Calder Foundation, New York.

Alexander Calder, Fanni, the Belly Dancer from Calder’s Circus, 1926-31, Wire, cloth, rhinestones, paint, thread, wood, and paper, 11-1/2 x 6 x 10-1/2", overall, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 83.36.24a-d, Photograph by Sheldan Collins.

Alexander Calder, Untitled (Figures on trapeze), 1925, Graphite on paper, 10-15/16 x 8-3/8", Calder Foundation, New York.

Alexander Calder, Half-circle, Quarter-circle, and Sphere, 1932, Metal rod, wire, and painted metal on painted wood base with motor, Overall: 76-5/8 x 35-1/2 x 25", Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc. 69.258, Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson.

 

Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
800-944-8639
New York
Alexander Calder: The Paris Years
October 16, 2008-February 15, 2009

Alexander Calder: The Paris Years is the first comprehensive, critical look at the formative seven-year period between 1926 and 1933, when Calder, on his way to becoming one of the greatest American sculptors, discovered his own singular artistic vocabulary. A partnership between the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, this exhibition presents a fresh perspective on one of the most well-loved and critically esteemed artists of the 20th century, focusing on the period during which Calder came into his own. The exhibition, co-curated by Joan Simon, Whitney Curator-at-Large, and Brigitte Leal, Curator at the Centre Pompidou, debuts at the Whitney before traveling to Centre Pompidou (March 18-July 20, 2009).

Calder’s years in Paris (including numerous trips back and forth to the U.S.) were a time of major transformation. When he arrived in Paris in 1926, at the age of 27, he was a painter-illustrator, specializing in urban realities, not unlike his teachers at the Art Students League, where he had studied between 1923 and 1925. By the time he left Paris to return to the U.S., in 1933, he had evolved into an international figure and a defining force in 20th-century sculpture.

It was during this crucial period in his artistic development that Calder arrived at his revolutionary notion of “drawing in space,” a concept that remained central to all of his work throughout his long career. At this time he invented a radically new kind of open-form wire portrait, at a time when sculptural portraiture was limited primarily to busts carved in stone or wood, modeled in clay, or cast in bronze. Focusing on Calder’s wire sculptures of the period, this exhibition follows from the artist’s earliest mobilizing of articulated figures for toys, to the extended cast of his animated Circus (made in Paris from 1926 to 1931), to independent figurative sculptures — including the open-form, dimensional wire portraits — and abstract motorized works, and finally to Calder’s releasing his line into buoyant, abstract, airborne gesture for his paradigm-shifting mobiles (so named by Marcel Duchamp), works that not only liberated sculpture from mass, but also incorporated movement as a “material” itself.

The exhibition includes works of art from institutions and private collections from around the world. Among the works from the Whitney and Pompidou collections, both of which are rich in Calder holdings, are the motorized Half-Circle, Quarter-Circle, and Sphere, Whitney, 1932, the stabile Object with Red Discs, Whitney, 1931, the portrait Varèse,Whitney, c. 1930, the animal sculpture Old Bull, Whitney, 1930, one of his first suspended wire figures, Josephine Baker IV, Centre Pompidou, c. 1928, and the subtly balanced Requin et Baleine, Centre Pompidou, c. 1933. These sculptures — and others less well known — are juxtaposed with an extensive presentation of drawings, many of which have not been previously exhibited, as well as films, photographs, newspaper and magazine illustrations, and correspondence. Also included are examples of Calder’s toys, some made for the artist’s own amusement, and others for commercial production, and the watercolor and gouache drawings for them that include his detailed engineering instructions for their fabrication — echoes of his training and work as a mechanical engineer prior to his art-school studies.

Calder’s skill as a reporter-illustrator was evident in his first wire portraits of notable
people who were part of the newly omnipresent celebrity culture spanning the worlds of the music hall, café society, and sports arena. The first of his wire portraits was one of Josephine Baker and the other of a boxer dressed in top hat and tails. Capturing likeness and movement, both are emblematic of the phenomenal popularity in Paris of these two recent transatlantic arrivals from New York. Alexander Calder: The Paris Years includes, as an ensemble for the first time, all four extant Josephine Baker sculptures. In his multiple views of Baker, Calder shared with many other artists he would come to know in Paris a fascination with this celebrated figure (Mondrian, who was present at her debut in La Revue nègre, in 1925, chief among them); Calder joined a roster of artists who paid homage by capturing her likeness (including Man Ray, Henri Laurens, Picasso, Van Dongen, Foujita, in the 1920s, and, in the late 1930s, Le Corbusier).

Calder would also join the many artists for whom Kiki de Montparnasse served as celebrated model and muse, evoking her distinctive profile in wire sculptures several times. One of these (its whereabouts unknown) was made when Calder invited Kiki to pose in 1929 while he crafted a wire portrait for a film. The newly discovered silent film, Montparnasse: Where the Muses Hold Sway, a remarkable view of Paris in the 1920s, shows Calder (identified only as “the smart art world’s latest vogue — the telephone wire sculptor”) creating a portrait of Kiki and, in a previously unknown view, with one of his masterworks, Spring (Printemps), 1928, included in the exhibition. The exhibition also includes the sole extant wire portrait of Kiki by Calder, Kiki de Montparnasse II, 1930, from the collection of the Centre Pompidou. Another Kiki sculpture, Féminité / Kiki's Nose, made around 1930, its whereabouts now unknown, is seen in the exhibition via a contemporaneous image by photographer Marc Vaux, also from the collection of the Centre Pompidou. Among other celebrities and celebrated events that became subjects of Calder’s wire sculptures were Calvin Coolidge, 1927, Helen Wills, 1927, Jimmy Durante, 1928, John D. Rockefeller, c. 1927, and Lindbergh’s plane in The Arrival of the Bremen or The Spirit of St. Louis, c. 1928. Calder was at Paris’s Le Bourget airport when the record-setting transatlantic flight landed; the sculpture’s title also reflects the first East-West transatlantic flight of the Bremen in 1928.

It was during a visit to Mondrian’s studio in 1930 that Calder became riveted by the
dynamic potential of Mondrian’s cardboard rectangles affixed to the walls and, further, an idea for their oscillating movement, which he suggested to Mondrian, who declined the offer. Following this visit, Calder began to paint again, and for a few weeks following “the shock” of this visit, he created a series of geometric abstractions, immediately followed by his abstract sculptures. His movement into abstraction would mark his work for the rest of his career.

Among Calder’s first major exhibitions were those held in Paris. From 1929-1933, his works were shown in such renowned galleries as the Billiet-Worms Gallery, the Percier Gallery, the Vignon Gallery, and the Pierre Gallery. In 1931, Calder exhibited with the group Abstraction-Création, a set of like-minded artists who promoted abstract art throughout Europe. During these important years, Calder created and showed his first abstract wire sculptures, his first motorized sculptures, as well as the “stabile” abstractions, a Calder genre titled by Jean Arp. Alexander Calder: The Paris Years examines and evokes Calder’s integral position within the international art scene and his friendships and working dialogues with peers.

Calder’s Circus, one of his most famous works, a legendary ensemble in its time, and the exhibition’s conceptual and performative hub, was created over a period of five years in Paris. Numerous visits by Calder to circuses in the U.S. and in Paris were the catalyst for the artist’s first figurative wire sculptures; the aerial play of circus figures informs many of his other works. His miniature Circus was a turning point for Calder, an embrace of the most ordinary of materials — wire and string, bits of metal and cloth — and his introduction of movement itself as a “material” for making animated sculpture of many kinds. This exhibition evokes the original presentation of Calder’s Circus as a performance. The installation includes the suitcases in which the artist transported his cast of characters, sets and props; Calder carried the Circus across the ocean to New York, initially in two suitcases in 1927, and later, as the number of acts and performers increased, in five. These suitcases are in the Whitney’s collection, and in exhibiting them along with the many circus components, the realities of the Circus’s transitory and performative nature are apparent. Also on view are the phonograph records Calder played on his Victrola while giving his Circus performances, and the supplies he used when sewing the costumes. This approach addresses a critical aspect of Calder’s practice: his position as a performer and a maker of performative sculpture. Stretched out on the floor, animating the work in an early example of “performance art,” Calder was ringmaster, narrator, and puppeteer as he set into motion the many acts of his miniature Circus, including aerialists, clowns, acrobats, knife-thrower, sword-swallower, and a full complement of Roman chariots for a race finale.

In the early 1970s, Calder’s Circus was put on extended loan to the Whitney by the artist; in 1983, the Whitney purchased the work as the result of an extraordinary grassroots fundraising project by more than 500 people. It has been on nearly continuous view at the Whitney for the past 25 years and has become one of the centerpieces of the Museum’s collection. This exhibition marks the first time since it was acquired by the Whitney that the Circus will leave the Museum, when it travels to Paris, the city of its making and earliest performances.

The show includes many drawings being shown for the first time. Among them are the following:

Circus drawings of 1925, made both at Ringling Brothers in New York and Sarasota, Florida. They include abstracted views of the wire structures supporting the circus tents and linear riggings for aerial acts, as well as intimate, realistic character studies of backstage life.

• Drawings (1925-26) sketched while observing animals at the Central Park Zoo and Bronx Zoo as he was preparing his instructional book Animal Sketching, 1926. Calder wrote the text as well as captured the movement of animals in his pen-and-ink line drawings.

• Calder’s first sketchbook, begun soon after his arrival in Paris, in 1926, inscribed with the address of the hotel in Montparnasse where he first stayed. Within are the drawings he made at the nearby Académie de la Grande Chaumière, one of the most famous art schools in Paris, where artists drew from live models.

• Drawings for toys, with detailed instructions for their fabrication, designed in Paris and commercially produced by the Gould Manufacturing Company, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

• Notes on Calder’s Circus, 1949, is addressed to his wife and daughters and is a large, folded drawing that offers the artist's instructions for precise assembly of the Circus.

The exhibition includes rare films of Calder at work: Sculpture Discards Clay, of 1928, and the American premiere of Le Grand Cirque Calder 1927, 1955, made by Jean Painlevé, who first saw Calder perform the Circus during his “Paris Years” and made the film some 25 years later.

Also showing for the first time in the United States is Montparnasse – Where the Muses Hold Sway, 1929, where Calder is seen as a member of the artists’ community of Montparnasse and at work in his studio, creating a wire portrait of the most famous artists’ model of the period, Kiki de Montparnasse, as discussed above.

A selection of Calder’s caricature sketches and other newspaper and magazine illustrations from The National Police Gazette, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and the Herald Tribune highlights Calder’s line and his observant eye, and includes subjects that also turn up in his paintings, such as Six Day Bike Race, 1924 and Circus Scene,1926.

An astute observer of his surroundings and a lively reporter of events, Calder wrote letters to his family from the time he was a child. A selection is included in the show, as are some of the artist’s childhood drawings, and toys he made as a youngster, precursors to those he made in the 1920s. In addition, the exhibition includes the scrapbook that Calder kept between 1926 and 1932, which includes reviews and exhibition announcements in many languages.

The catalogue, Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933, edited by Joan Simon and Brigitte Leal, is 304 pages with 325 images, including color plates of the works in the exhibition. In addition to essays by the exhibition’s curators, Leal and Simon, the book includes contributions from Quentin Bajac, Annie Cohen-Solal, Pepe Karmel, Eleonora Nagy with Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, Henry Petroski, and Arnauld Pierre, and a chronology by Alexander S.C. Rower. A multifaceted portrait of the artist and the period, the book offers new research and analysis of individual works and the contexts in which they were made. The essayists discuss Calder’s many innovations during The Paris Years, chief among them his abstract, motorized, and mobile works. They analyze the extended cast of Calder’s animated Circus, and include previously unpublished photographs by Brassaï and Kertész of Calder and this beloved performative sculpture. They explore the intellectual, cultural, and artistic milieu of Paris in the late 1920s and early 1930s and the contexts of Calder’s friendships with Miró, Mondrian, Duchamp, and Man Ray, among others. The catalogue, co-published by the Whitney and the Centre Pompidou, will be published in separate French and English editions, the latter distributed by Yale University Press.

Whitney Live
Objective Suspense: Colin Gee at the Calder Circus
Conceived and performed by Colin Gee (A Whitney Live Commission)
October 2008-
February 2009


In gallery-integrated performances during Museum hours, Colin Gee creates a series of intimate performance experiences, inspired by Calder's Circus. Trained at the Lecoq School in Paris and Dell’ Arte School of Physical Theatre, Gee is a former principle clown for Cirque du Soleil. With Calder's Circus in the background, Gee manipulates abstract forms in an act that focuses on the dynamics of movement, connecting with the public through eye contact, rhythm, play, and stillness.

Alexander Calder, Prima Donna, Woman with Bow, and Horse from Calder’s Circus, 1926-31, Wire, cloth, wood, cardboard, paint, rhinestones, and thread, 12-3/8 x 5-1/2 x 6", Metal, wire, cloth, thread, paint, cork and string, 4-7/8 x 16-1/2 x 7", Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 83.36.17, 83.36.60, and 83.36.61, Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins.

Alexander Calder, Cowboy, Cowgirl, and Horse from Calder’s Circus, 1926-31, Wire, wood, yarn, leather, cloth, metal, and string, 10-1/2 x 5-3/4 x 18-3/4", wire, cloth, leather, and cork, 6-1/4 x 7 x 6", painted wood, wire, rubber, and thread, 9 x 9-3/4 x 3-1/2", Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 83.36.20, 83.36.32, and 83.36.30, Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins.

Alexander Calder, Arching Man, 1929, Wire and paint, 13-3/4 x 35 x 11-1/2", Calder Foundation, New York, Photograph by Benjamin Krebs.

 

Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1939. Painted sheet aluminum and steel wire, 14-5/8 x 9 x 10-7/8", Kay Sage Tanguy Bequest, © 2009 Estate of Alexander Calder / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 1122.1964.

Alexander Calder's Early Wire Sculpture and Mobiles

Alexander Calder, Elephant Chair with Lamp, 1928. Galvanized steel, steel wire, lead, cloth, and painted paper, 7-7/8 x 3-1/2 x 4-1/8", Gift of the artist, © 2009 Estate of Alexander Calder / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 845.1966.

 

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
212-708-9400
New York
The Estée and Joseph H. Lauder Gallery, fifth floor
Focus: Alexander Calder
September 14–February 18, 2008

This single gallery installation, drawn from MoMA’s extensive collection of Alexander Calder’s art, focuses on early wire sculptures and mobiles created between the late 1920s and the late 1940s, prior to the artist’s shift to monumental constructions and public works. The works reveal the artist’s early interest in kinetic art and his ability to create a vital, three-dimensional world that moved beyond fixed, static forms.

The installation underscores the visual sophistication and inventiveness of Calder’s approach to making art, which quietly revolutionized ideas about what modern sculpture could be. Organized by Anne Umland, Curator, with Veronica Roberts, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art.

Calder (July 22, 1898-November 11, 1976), also known as Sandy Calder, was most famous for inventing the mobile. In addition to mobile and stabile sculpture, Alexander Calder also created paintings, lithographs, toys and tapestry and designed carpets.

Born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, on July 22, 1898, Calder came from a family of artists. His father, Alexander Stirling Calder, was a well-known sculptor who created many public installations, a majority of them located in Philadelphia. Calder’s grandfather, sculptor Alexander Milne Calder, was born in Scotland and immigrated to Philadelphia in 1868. Calder’s mother, Nanette Lederer Calder, was a professional portrait painter who studied at the Académie Julian and the Sorbonne in Paris from around 1888 until 1893. She then moved to Philadelphia where she met Alexander Stirling Calder while studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Alexander Calder, Spider, 1939, Painted sheet aluminum, steel rod, and steel wire, 6' 8-1/2" x 7' 4-1/2" x 36-1/2", Gift of the artist, © 2009 Estate of Alexander Calder / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 391.1966.a-c.