Saturday, April 3, 2010

Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act

Calder - Polychrome Dots and Brass (1964)
On a recommendation we headed over to Seattle Art Museum and caught the Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act exhibition. We were glad we did, because Alexander Calder (1898–1976) was truly an original American artist. The exhibition will please you even if sculpture is not something you know a lot about or appreciate. You can’t help but marvel at the mobiles he created.

Did you know that the word “mobiles” was coined in the 1930s to refer to Calder’s work? Calder invented mobiles; the term was coined by Marcel Duchamp. (Oh to be young and creative and living in Paris in the 1930s.) The Calders on exhibit in this SAM show are from the private collection of Jon and Mary Shirley. Besides mobiles (and there are small and some very large ones), there are stabiles (stable mobiles), lots of photos of Calder by Herbert Matter (1907 – 1984), some works on paper by Calder, some jewelry, and a 15 minute or so movie featuring bits of Calder performing one of his famous Cirque Calder performances from the 1960s. Here are some clips: clip1, clip2 (the best to start with), clip3, and clip4 from the movie which seems to be part of this French DVD release called La Magie Calder. To note from some of the circus clips: his wife playing the records providing the music for the circus (and her expression), her necklace made by Calder, the elephant and lion defecating (peanuts and beans, respectively), and the simultaneous silliness and sublimeness of the circus.

We’ll confess that though we’ve seen the monumental Eagle (1971) in the Olympic Sculpture Park we did not remember that Calder was the artist. Now it makes much more sense. We also spent some time in 2004 at the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona ogling Calder’s mercury fountain installed there, but again, did not know much about Calder or remember him as the artist.

Other Info: The Calder Foundation web site has more information and photos of Calder. The show at SAM runs from October 15, 2009 – April 11, 2010.

Mercury Fountain at Foundation Joan Miro in Barcelona
SAM Exhibit Information

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