Thursday, July 23, 2009
alexander calder b july 22 1898
i suppose the size of the things is what strikes you first. after that, it's marveling at the balance, & then, i think, it's the recognition of its activity. however you first experience a giant calder mobile, it's hard to imagine that a sense of nearly child-like wonder isn't a part of it too.
after dona & i broke up in charlottesville, i spent nearly every other weekend in washington dc, avoiding her & her various "dates" that she paraded around c'ville. dona had a strict rule that after a breakup, she'd date anyone & everyone to get her mind off the breakup. whether it worked or not i can't say but it did cause some awkward moments & i preferred to avoid those as much as possible. hanging out in washington dc was MY way of dealing w/things.
calder's mobiles were a part of that experience. they hung in at least two of the lobbies of the national gallery. enormous & colorful, they were utterly unavoidable.
"IT'S DIFFICULT TO KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF ALEXANDER CALDER. He is solidly positioned within the pantheon of twentieth-century sculpture but doesn't quite fit the conventional academic narrative that runs from Picasso's Guitar through David Smith to Minimalism and beyond. He is arguably one of the most beloved and readily identifiable artists of his time, but it can be tough to take him completely seriously." caroll dunham artforum feb 2009
i have no problem taking calder seriously. i think that's just academic silliness trying to muddy the water.
the fact that his "stabiles" worked to undermine or deny the classic distinctions between base & sculpture, the fact that his work was active & therefore ephemeral yet apparent, the fact that so many of his pieces were rooted in the organic(insects & plants)but utilized the mechanical, all signal someone working outside the standard academic categories. his early & lifelong fascination w/the circus gives us an indication of his eventual creation of works of spectral fascination & multiple activities. the works are like a three ring circus, ever active & insistent on capturing the viewer's attention while employing every trick in the book to deceive & bewilder.