Tower 2 of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC is dedicated to Alexander Calder’s mobiles and stabiles, even a couple of works on canvas and his “drawing in air” (iwire works). Playful but serious, as usual, the works reflect the sculptor’s imagination as well as his technical competence and training. The Gallery commissioned Calder to create a monumental mobile to hang in the central court of I.M. Pei’s new East Building. It was completed and installed after the artist’s death in 1976. / National Gallery of Art, nga.org.
By Nancy McKeon
WHEN YOU STOP to consider what most of us know of the sculptor Alexander Calder—his colorful mobiles bobbing balletically in the air, the monumental stabiles that anchor so many public spaces worldwide, the playful shapes and images—it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn, if you didn’t already know, that his parents were artists who encouraged him to make things, that he had a strong sense of play, that he never stopped learning, never stopped creating.
Add in his competencies—a degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, then studies at New York’s Art Students League and art school in Paris—and his 50 years of success (toys, oil portraiture, abstract paintings, wire sculpture, which he basically invented, even jewelry) would seem foreordained.
The Calder Foundation, based in New York and founded by his grandson Alexander S.C. Rower and the Calder family in 1987, is now allowing us to see even more. They have spent their first decades assembling and preserving more than 22,000 documents and artworks; now they have opened some of their treasure in an online research archive (the archive itself is not open to the public).
The online presence is deep. Family pictures, even pictures of early projects, go way, way back—and then way, way forward, not stopped even by Calder’s sudden death from a heart attack at age 78 in 1976.
These photos (and information) culled from the foundation website give an idea of the richness of the artist’s life and work—way, way beyond the artist we think we know.
“Floating Clouds,” a monumental 1953 work by Calder, was originally conceived as an outdoor art piece for the University of Caracas in Venezuela. But the project was rethought and the laminated-wood panels were installed inside the Aula Magna, the school’s auditorium, to improve the acoustics. Result: The hall, according to Wiki, has some of the best acoustics in the world. “Floating Clouds” (sometimes called “Flying Saucers” by the artist) were mentioned specifically by UNESCO in declaring the campus a World Heritage Site.
2 thoughts on “Virtual Museum: Digging Into Calder”
Delightful! Art that soars, so we do, too.
I had a WONDERFUL time combing through the online stuff. It’s just marvelous!!