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Report from New York

Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926 – 1933 on at the Whitney until February 15, 2009 is a small and perfectly formed show on the seven years in Paris that defined the artist’s career.


Image: allposters.com

Watch the video:

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His animating drawn line transformed from two dimensions to three, from ink and paint to wire, anticipating the 1970s multi-faceted wire and pencil wall sculptures by one of VoCA’s other favorite artists, Richard Tuttle.


Richard Tuttle, Wire Octagon (#4), 1971. Image: flickr.com

Calder’s wire caricatures make line drawing spring to life from every angle, his animals are simply and wittily formed, but it’s his miniature Circus that we found most delightful, in the way that Paul Klee’s hand puppets were. (See VoCA post HERE.)


Piet Mondrian, Composition No 1, 1930. Image: cineclubcaen.com

After meeting Piet Mondrian in 1930, his experiments with wire led to abstraction, which in turn led to kinetic sculptures, and further to his famous ‘mobiles’, a term that Duchamp coined for the moving sculptures.


Alexander Calder, Two Spheres within a Sphere, 1931.
Image: arttattler.com/Calder Foundation.

One of the best pieces on view is his earliest documented ceiling-suspended mobile, Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere, from 1932-33. It’s a percussive instrument that is set off every once in a while by a security guard, setting in motion a ball on a pulley that bounces off numerous bottles, a tin can, a gong and other objects, creating music.

Buy the excellent catalogue HERE, and click HERE for the Whitney Museum website.

5 Responses to “Report from New York”

  1. Wil Murray says:

    I’ve never liked Calder, and walking out to the wire faces had me a little reticent, but once I hit the video of the circus bits, I stood there for a half an hour watching.
    The last pieces…especially the pendulum that would occasionally hit the bottles or other items kept me there another half hour.
    It made me like his work, although the faces still leave me a little cold.

  2. L.M. says:

    That Mondrian is insanely beautiful as a jpeg. Though it’s totally disconcerting to see it in the flesh/paint. The patina of age makes those paintings look very sweet & sad, like something you could pick up at a garage sale

  3. Wil Murray says:

    L.M.:
    This is exactly what I was saying to the friend I went to the museum with…she asked how it was seeing all those paintings I’d never seen(I was, until last week a Rauschenberg and Johns virgin), I said they looked old and yellow. There were some really nice paintings up, but they all kind of looked like they came from your parents’ rec room.

  4. Andrea says:

    That’s the nature of contemporary art I guess…do you remember Claes Oldenburg’s slowly decomposing stuffed hamburger sculpture in the AGO? It’s nowhere to be seen in the new galleries, I don’t think…

  5. Andrea says:

    But I actually don’t mind at all how Rauschenberg and Johns have aged. At the least the ones in the recent Met show and Kunstmuseum Basel show, respectively…

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