Saturday, January 24, 2009

Calder...The Ring Master

Alexander Calder's crazy circus figures - some are motorized

A mobile.

Calder's caricature portraits.

Josephine Baker - Aztec.

Josephine Baker.

An artistic genius with whimsical creativity is how I would describe Alexander Calder, a man known by most, as the artist that created the mobile sculptures made from wire, wood and paint. I really only knew of his mobiles which I've always loved, but grew somewhat bored of them because they became so mainstream while replica's sprouted up everywhere. I now have a new found appreciation of Calder's work after visiting his exhibit at the Whitney Museum here in New York (on view through February 15). The charming collection contains his works from his time spent in Paris, 1926 to 1933. One of his first wire sculptures was of Josephine Baker, which I'm a huge fan of and never knew he sculpted her. It was a great surprise when I saw the wired figures bouncing and gyrating against a stark white wall in the museum. It created such a nice contrast. I was really thrown back when I entered the room that displayed his complete circus! The wire spectacle that is a permanent fixture at the Whitney is a playful but almost disturbing and creepy aerial play of circus figures. The old time music that has been recorded from a Victrola plays overhead while enthralled by the vision of such an enormous display. One can't help but to imagine Alexander working through the late nights in the city of lights perfecting his craft, twisting strands of metal, gluing wooden heads and leather garments onto his wiry creations. Ooh...all so creepy right? I love it! Upon the completion of his Circus's Alexander would invite audiences, most were his artist friends, Joan Miro, Piet Mondrian, Fernand Leger, and Marcel Duchamp to his atelier who would sit on a low bed or on crates, munching peanuts while Calder manipulated his characters with strings and wires so that trapezists flew through the air, cowboys lassoed horses, and acrobats catapulted across space. The ring master and his circus! The big top is at 945 Madison Ave. The Whitney Museum...Step right up folks!

1 comment:

diane said...

Nice post. I love wacky french art. My father-in-law is also an artist in Paris, and does some off-the-wall stuff you might appreciate. You can find it at "". I'm sorry, I don't know how to do the direct link thing. On the 2nd page is his stuff, 7 things, starting with Hommage a Gaudi.