Shana Nys Dambrot 2015-09-01 02:22:41
The art of Alexander Calder continues to influence the contemporary aesthetic When Alexander Calder’s early mechanized mobile, A Universe, was exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Albert Einstein reportedly stood fascinated by the work for 40 minutes. The dynamic sculpture, which was created in 1934, features two wooden balls—one red and one white—each attached to a string that allows them to move along curved wire paths. The piece represents “Calder’s fascination with the natural world and the cosmos beyond,” explains Vassilis Oikonomopoulos, one of the Tate Modern curators organizing the museum’s first retrospective of the artist’s work. “Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture” will be on view at the London institution Nov. 11 through April 3, 2016. The piece that entranced Einstein, on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, will be included in the exhibit, along with a diverse array of works that focus on how motion, performance and theatricality were foundational to the artist’s approach to sculpture. Pioneering Movement Although known for inventing the floating sculptures that fellow artist Marcel Duchamp dubbed “mobiles,” Calder (1898-1976) also created stationary monumental pieces, called “stabiles,” as well as optically dynamic abstract paintings, prints, jewelry, and wooden and wire sculptures he called “constellations.” In addition, Calder worked in a great deal of collaborative, interdisciplinary projects in film, theater, music and dance. In the 1920s, he staged performances and films featuring Cirque Calder, an avantgarde work of found materials. Calder later collaborated with American choreographer Martha Graham, French pianist and composer Erik Satie, and avant-garde American composer Earle Brown, among many others. The artist’s influence on contemporary art progressively deepens, as his work continues to be the subject of major new exhibitions. Tate Modern’s show follows last year’s “Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which explored Calder’s translation of French surrealism into the American vernacular, and was also LACMA’s first major Calder survey. An Enduring Legacy Calder continues to influence contemporary sculptors like Martin Boyce, Nathan Carter, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Rachel Harrison, Aaron Curry and, notably, Tara Donovan. The first winner of the Calder Prize, Donovan received a grant from the Calder Foundation, which includes a financial award and a three-month residency in Calder’s former studio, the Atelier Calder, in Saché, France. The foundation’s work with emerging and international sculptors also supports teaching programs as well as archival, curatorial and scholarship resources. As the Tate’s exhibition is poised to illuminate, Calder’s influence on the direction of contemporary art is not restricted to practitioners of sculpture. As Oikonomopoulos explains, “Calder’s pioneering role was [in recognizing] that sculpture could move of its own accord, opening up the artwork to the experience of time, as well as to chance, contingency and performance.” This inspired the artist to flirt with theatricality and even choreography; Tate Modern’s exhibit will include designs and films that explore his lesser-known collaborations in ballet and music. As Calder’s art and foundation continue to have profound impact on today’s artists, the playful nature of his sculptures, paintings and other works enduringly captures the world’s imagination. The Tate exhibit is set to delight aficionados and attract new fans of the American innovator, exploring the inner workings of the artist’s mind while fittingly raising questions about creative processes—proving that, in Calder’s words, “Nothing at all of this is fixed.” ALEXANDER CALDER ACROSS THE GLOBE LA GRANDE VITESSE in Grand Rapids, Mich., was erected in 1969 and has the distinction of being the first civic sculpture to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art in Public Places program. The bright red work stands 43 feet high, 54 feet long and 30 feet wide, providing dramatically different views from each corner of the square. SPIRALE, in Paris, is a mobile sculpture made of black steel and aluminum, which UNESCO acquired for its headquarters in 1958. Its sprouting limbs are topped with moving plates, poised atop a pyramidal base. Installed on a sweeping lawn, surrounded by trees and with an echoing view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, it is a sublime meditation on the confluence of nature and industry. EL SOL ROJO at Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium stands 67 feet high and is Calder’s largest sculpture. Installed in 1968 for the Summer Olympics, the work’s smoldering red circle is cradled in the crux of a towering black tripod base, like a red sunset behind a mountain range. A mobile called FLIGHT was created in 1957 for New York’s Idlewild Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport). “[The work] is synonymous with arriving in New York,” says Vassilis Oikonomopoulos, a Tate Modern curator working on the upcoming calder exhibition. “The hanging sculpture is a constant reminder of Calder’s unique ability to create beauty and harmony through motion, color and form.” STEGOSAURUS was dedicated in 1973 in Hartford, Conn. Forty-five steel plates make up an abstract, red-orange, 50-foot dinosaur on the Memorial Mall in the state capital, near the idyllic farming town of Roxbury where the artist lived for more than 40 years.
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