alexander calder: performing sculpture

have you ever noticed that people are mesmerized by movement?

alexander calder: performing sculpture, an exhibition at the tate modern museum in london from 11 november 2015 – 3 april 2016, could be described as mesmerizing.  it’s the largest calder exhibition ever shown in great britain, with eleven galleries displaying approximately 100 works.

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alexander calder: performing sculpture | tate modern museum | london, united kingdom | 11 november 2015 – 3 april 2016

saint paul’s cathedral and the millenium bridge in the background

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

american sculptor, alexander calder (1898-1976), may be best known for transforming sculpture into a kinetic art form.

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | antennae with red and blue dots | hanging mobile | aluminum and steel wire | circa 1953

collection of the tate modern museum | london, united kingdom

photo credit (c) 2015 calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via BBC

his kinetic sculptures could also be described as performance art.

at the beginning of his career, calder gained fame, received introductions, and made friends through cirque calder, the miniature mechanical circus that he created and performed in paris and new york from 1926-1931.

calder’s friends included artists joan miró (1893-1983) and fernand léger (1881-1955), as well as composer edgard varèse (1883-1965).  my husband, bob, and i were captivated by calder’s three dimensional wire caricatures of them.

‘i think best in wire.’  -alexander calder

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | joan miró | wire | circa 1930

on loan from a private collection

photo credit courtesy of the calder foundation via the new centrist

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | varése | wire | 1930

on loan from the whitney museum of american art | new york, NY

photo credit (c) calder foundation via the whitney

Fernand Legersmall

alexander calder (1898-1976) | fernand léger | wire | 1930

on loan from a private collection

photo credit (c) calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via the arts desk

at the tate modern, the installation and the illumination capture the shadows cast by the suspended sculptures.

portraitsjoe humphrys tate photography

room 3 | alexander calder: performing sculpture | tate modern museum | london, united kingdom | 11 november 2015 – 3 april 2016

photo credit joe humphrys, tate photography / courtesy: calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via wallpaper

calder began creating abstract sculptures, most commonly made from wire and sheet metal, following a visit to the paris studio of dutch painter piet mondrian (1872-1944) in 1930.  he began suspending his abstract sculptures, and using airflow or touch, instead of mechanics or motorization, to generate movement.  another one of his friends, artist marcel duchamp (1887-1968), called calder’s suspensions mobiles, a pun on the french words for movement and motive.

like other viewers, bob and i were magnetized by the movement of the mobiles.

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room 9 | alexander calder: performing sculpture | tate modern museum | london, united kingdom | 11 november 2015 – 3 april 2016

photo credit joe humphrys, tate photography / courtesy: calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via wallpaper

some mobiles move silently.

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | snow flurry I | hanging mobile | painted steel sheet and steel wire | 1948

on loan from the collection of the museum of modern art | new york, NY

photo credit (c) 2016 calder foundation, new york / artists rights society (ARS), new york via MOMA

caldergamma1947c calder foundation

alexander calder (1898-1976) | gamma | hanging mobile | painted sheet metal and steel wire | 1947

on loan from the collection of jon a. shirley | seattle, WA

photo credit calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via wsj

while, the movement of other mobiles creates sound.

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | triple gong | hanging mobile | brass, sheet metal, wire and paint | circa 1948

on loan from the collection of the calder foundation | new york, NY

photo credit calder foundation, new york / art resource, new york / ARS, new york / DACS, london via wsj

does silence somehow seem more eloquent?

calder|black widow|1948|joe humphrys

alexander calder (1898-1976) | black widow | hanging mobile | wire and painted metal | circa 1948

on loan from the institute of architects of brazil | säo paulo, brazil

photo credit joe humphrys, tate photography / courtesy: calder foundation, new york / DACS, london via wallpaper

our visit to london conveniently coincided with the post war and contemporary art auctions, which prominently featured works by alexander calder.

the auction previews provided an opportunity to view calder’s hanging and standing mobiles more closely.

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | untitled | hanging mobile | painted sheet metal and wire | 1967

sold for £962,500 (US$ $1,396,588) | lot 2 | sale 11795 | post war and contemporary art evening auction | 11 february 2016 | christie’s king street | london, united kingdom

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | crag with yellow boomerang and red eggplant | standing mobile | painted sheet metal and wire | 1974

sold for £1,874,500 (US$ 2719,900) | lot 3 | sale 11795 | post war and contemporary art evening auction | 11 february 2016 | christie’s king street | london, united kingdom

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

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alexander calder (1898-1976) | the black mountain | oil on canvas | 1945

sold for £602,500 (US$ 874,228) | lot 1 | sale 11795 | post war and contemporary art evening auction | 11 february 2016 | christie’s king street | london, united kingdom

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

you could say that calder performed rather well…

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