21 August 2017

'Calder: Hypermobility' at the Whitney

Among my favorite artists, largely because his work is just so entertaining and . . . well, fun, is Alexander Calder, principally a sculptor—though that title’s too limiting to do him justice—who also worked many other forms.  He’s probably best known for his mobiles, an art form he invented and of which he surely created hundreds over his lifetime, and perhaps the huge public sculptures he dubbed “stabiles,” seen in many public plazas in cities all over the United States—including New York.  (There’s a stabile in front of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, appropriately entitled Le Guichet (The Box Office), 1963, that I love.  I often deliberately walk under this 1965 gift to New York City when going to or from the library, just for the fun of it.) 

I own a Calder lithograph that’s of the same iconography as the sculptor’s mobiles—the same color palette and the same blobby shapes.  It could, in fact, be seen as a study for a possible mobile (though I’m pretty sure that’s not what it was intended for).  The title, Magie Eolin (1972)—the nearest translation for which I can come up with is “magic of the wind”—might suggest that it was inspired by the wind-driven sculptures so beloved by both the artist himself and his fans.  I also have a faux-Calder mobile in my study.  My mother bought it as a gift for my father at one of the Washington museum shops, the National Gallery of Art or one of the Smithsonians, and they passed it on to me sometime after I moved into my present apartment—which has an extra room for my study/guest room.  It’s not an actual Calder, but it was clearly modeled after his work (and could almost pass for one of Calder’s mobiles . . . if you don’t look too closely).

Thus, when I read that the Whitney Museum of American Art, which two years ago opened a new building in the West Village in my cruising range, was planning an Alexander Calder exhibit, I knew I had to go over and see it.  I asked my friend Diana (who’s a Whitney member) if the artist was one in whom she’s interested, and when she said he is, I suggested we meet sometime during the exhibit’s run to view it.  It took us a while to coordinate a date and time, but we finally met on Saturday evening, 12 August, and went to the Whitney to see Calder: Hypermobility, an exhibit of the sculptor’s mobiles, including both the ones run by little motors, which the artist created first and are rarely seen (and even more rarely set in motion) today, and the more familiar wind-activated mobiles.  

The show’s very small—I didn’t realize that from the write-ups: there are only 36 sculptures, all in one gallery.  Nonetheless, it was wonderful.  We actually spent about two hours in the Whitney’s eighth-floor Hurst Family Galleries and twice saw an art handler “activate” some of the mobiles.  (There’s a schedule for the museum staff to come up and make selected pieces move, either by turning on the motors hidden in Calder’s mechanized mobiles—the motors have all been restored and even up-dated so that the handlers can operate them with a remote—or spinning others by gloved hands or with long, padded sticks so visitors who are there at the time can see them move.)   Jay Sanders, Hypermobility’s curator, insisted that “movements and changes are integral to the work,” but the handlers only activate four pieces at a time, though each time they do different mobiles.  On Saturdays, they come once an hour on the hour, so we caught two activations.

Hypermobility, organized by Jay Sanders, Engell Speyer Family Curator and Curator of Performance, with Greta Hartenstein, senior curatorial assistant, and Melinda Lang, curatorial assistant, opened at the Whitney Museum on 9 June 2017 and will continue until 23 October.  The exhibited works cover three decades of Calder’s career, from the 1930s to the 1960s, though the pieces aren’t arranged in any kind of chronological sequence.  The older, motorized mobiles are mixed in among the later, free-floating sculptures.  While there’s a contiguity among many of the sculptures, displaying Calder’s now-famous blobby-shaped elements, painted in his signature colors of black, yellow, red, blue, and white, quite a few stand out as atypical, such as Fish (1944), which not only is representative—it looks like a (stylized) fish—but it’s made of shards of glass rather than Calder’s more common wood, fabric, or metal.  This is a demonstration of what Calder called “disparity,” which the museum defines as “a term the artist used to describe the complex variation and disjuncture of forms, colors, densities, and movements within a single work and across multiple objects.”  

Many of the three dozen works—which include one large (though not monumental) stabile (The Arches, 1959) and at least one non-moving carved wooden figure (Double Cat, 1930)—come from the Calder Foundation and some are part of the permanent collection of the Whitney, which has a long and extensive relationship with Calder and his work.

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was practically born to be a sculptor.  His father, Alexander Stirling Calder (1870-1945), was a sculptor who created public installations, many of them in Philadelphia (which is 100 miles west of Calder’s birthplace of Lawnton, Pennsylvania, ten miles east of Harrisburg), and his grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder (1846-1923), was also a sculptor, responsible for the statue of William Penn atop Philadelphia City Hall.  (The former Nanette Lederer, 1866-1960, the youngest Calder’s mother, was a portrait painter.)  The Calders moved around the country frequently for Stirling’s health (he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1905) and his work, and in each home, as young Alexander grew up, his parents established a studio for their artistically precocious son, who began making art, in the form of jewelry for his sister’s dolls, when he was about 8. 

Despite his obvious talent, however, they didn’t want Alexander to live the precarious life of an artist and upon graduating from high school in 1915, Calder enrolled in the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey—almost directly across the Hudson River from the Whitney Museum, which has clear views of the New Jersey shore from the large windows and terraces on the upper floors—to study mechanical engineering.  Graduating from Stevens Tech in 1919, Calder worked in engineering-related jobs for several years.  His artistic proclivities caught up with him, however, and he enrolled in New York City’s  Art Students League and in 1926, moved to Paris, the mecca for all incipient artists.  Living in the bohemian Montparnasse quarter, Calder became friends with a number of avant-garde artists, including surrealist and Dadaist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), surrealist  Joan Miró (1893-1983), Dada founder and sculptor Hans (Jean) Arp (1887-1966), and abstract painter Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). 

Now married, he returned to the New York area in 1933, settling in Connecticut, and, with respect to this career, he never looked back.  Most famous for the mobiles that are the subject of Hypermobility, Calder worked in many media and forms, some of them quite surprising.  He made mechanical toys, sculpted in wire, created monumental stabiles, made abstract paintings and lithographs (some of which, like my Magie Eolin, bear a striking resemblance to the mobiles), and fashioned jewelry.  In 1972, he contracted with Braniff International Airways to paint a Douglas DC-8-62 jet airliner and in 1975, he painted a BMW 3.0 CSL for the car manufacturer’s Art Car Project. 

Calder’s initial adult art works, starting in the 1920s, were his wire sculptures.  Following his juvenile experiments with doll jewelry, they came before (but overlapped with) the mobiles and the massive stabiles.  Just as Calder’s background in mechanical engineering must have guided his work with the motorized mobiles (which, counterintuitively, predate his floating mobiles by a few years), the wire sculptures led to the wind-activated mobiles.  I saw Focus: Alexander Calder, an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art many years ago (2007-08) of mostly those wire pieces (plus some of the early mobiles) from the ’20s through the ’40s.  The whimsical figures, both generic and famous, are delightfully rendered, almost childlike, except they’re too sophisticated in execution to be by a child.  In MoMA’s view, the wire sculptures show how Calder approached creating works of art with a combination of whimsy, ingenuity, and a sophisticated visual sense.  The mobiles display those qualities, too.  The stabiles are too massive to give that impression.  

It was reportedly a visit in 1930 to the studio of his friend Piet Mondrian, whose starkly geometric paintings were characterized by intersecting vertical and horizontal black lines and planes of bright, primary colors, that inspired the sculptor to commit wholly to abstract art.  In 1932, Calder invented a new form of sculpture that was kinetic, balancing its components to evince an idiosyncratic series of movements.  “Just as one can compose colors, or forms,” contended the artist, “so one can compose motions.”  He gave the innovation the name “mobile,” suggested by his friend Marcel Duchamp as a sort of pun because the French word means not only ‘moving,’ ‘capable of motion,’ or ‘in motion’ but ‘motive’ (as of a crime) or ‘the force behind movement.’  (New York Times art reviewer Jason Farago quipped, “Sly as ever, Duchamp cast Calder’s kinetic art as a kind of sneak attack.”  Calder’s friend Hans Arp coined the name ‘stabile’ off of ‘mobile’ as those sculptures don’t move—but give the impression of motion, as if depicting movement frozen in time.  “You have to walk around a stabile or through it,” said Calder, “—a mobile dances in front of you.”)  The mobiles work in intricate ways, some simply revolving and some making what the museum described as “uncanny gestures.”  From this perspective, Calder: Hypermobility is a display of, as Whitney curator Sanders puts it, “the diverse taxonomy of movements within Calder’s work.”

Some of the moving sculptures are designed so that the little pieces that comprise them collide or bump, so those works not only move, but also make unpredictable percussive sounds as well.  (One mobile hanging from the gallery’s ceiling, Red Disc and Gong, 1940, is an anomaly; one reviewer labeled it “a visceral study in toying with viewers’ anticipation.”  Calder’s intent was for a sort of drum stick, a long pole with a spherical fabric head, to strike a metal disc to make a gong-like clang . . . but as the kinetic sculpture spins slowly above our heads, the striker doesn’t touch the gong—at least not enough to make a sound!)

As I pointed out earlier, the Whitney Museum has had a long association with the work of Alexander Calder.  As a nascent artist, Calder became a member of the Whitney Studio Club and soon after, he participated in the Studio’s Eleventh Annual Exhibition in 1926 (five years before the Whitney Museum of American Art was even founded).  After figuring in a number of Whitney Annuals (the precursors to the Whitney Biennials) in the 1940s, the museum started acquiring large holdings of the artist’s work.  Today, the Whitney’s collection of Calder’s work is the largest of any museum in the world.  In the 1970s, Calder lent the Whitney Cirque Calder (1926-31), a miniature circus sculpted from wire, cloth, string, rubber, cork, and other found objects that’s one of his most popular pieces; it became the subject of Calder’s Circus at the museum in 1972; the Whitney purchased Cirque Calder in 1983 and committed further resources to restoring in the 2000s.  In addition to Calder’s Circus and Calder: Hypermobility, the sculptor’s been the subject of many other exhibitions at the Whitney, including Alexander Calder: Tapestries (1971), Three Sculptors: Calder, Nevelson and Smith (1974), Alexander Calder: Sculpture of the Nineteen Thirties (1987–88), Celebrating Calder (1991), I Think Best In Wire: Alexander Calder (2006), Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926–33 (2008–09), and Collecting Calder (2014).  In 1976, the Whitney mounted Calder’s Universe, a major retrospective of the sculptor’s work, which opened just before the artist’s unexpected death on 11 November at 78.  (For a brief history of the Whitney Museum of American Art, see my report on the Whitney Biennial, posted on ROT on 22 June.)

One of my favorite Calder pieces, by far his largest mobile and the last major art work he created, hangs from the ceiling of the center court of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building in Washington, D.C.  The red-and-black Untitled (1976) is 76 feet long, weighs 920 pounds, and is composed of 12 arms bearing 13 aluminum panels which resemble a stegosaurus’s dorsal plates.  (Calder had planned the non-motorized mobile in steel, but that turned out to be too heavy to function the way the sculptor intended, so his close friend, Paul Matisse, the grandson of artist Henry Matisse, translated the design into aluminum.)  Calder approved the final construction plans a week before his death, while the I. M. Pei-designed East Building was still under construction, and was installed on 18 November 1977, just past the first anniversary of Calder’s death.  I have visited the NGA’s East Building, which opened in 1978, hundreds of times over the years, and Calder’s Untitled and the Joan Miró tapestry Woman (1977) in the same vast, open gallery just beyond the museum’s entry were always my first pleasures, no matter what show I was there to see.  It was like being greeted by old and dear friends; both were removed some years ago for cleaning and maintenance, and I missed them dearly.  (The mobile was returned to its  proper place, but the tapestry was replaced.)

It’s fun to see the pieces in motion.  It’s all very whimsical and delightful!  For some reason I no longer recall, Diana pronounced on the grimness of the world through history.  That prompted me to observe that I didn’t really know anything about Calder’s life outside his art (I’ve now read a little since seeing Hypermobility), but that if that’s any evidence, he wasn’t a melancholy or dour man.  Aside from his mobiles, which are certainly sophisticated playthings that are meant to do little more than provide pleasure to the viewer, his lithos and wire sculptures are also all up-beat and whimsical.  I’ve never seen a Calder piece that’s dark or brooding.  Calder apparently had his serious side—he was so opposed to the war in Vietnam that President Nixon put the artist on the White House “Enemies List”—but his art was for pleasure.  (Could anyone overlook the fact that Calder’s circus is just an art-inspired “set-up,” as my brother and I called such play assemblages when we were little?)  “My fan mail is enormous,” joked the sculptor. “Everyone is under 6.”  And Alexander S. C. Rower, Calder’s grandson, proclaimed that his grandfather’s art isn’t “about anything.  The subject is you—and your experience.”

Though the mobiles are fascinating even when they’re still (which the free-hanging ones really never are since the merest shift in the ambient airflow, even indoors—heating and air-conditioning move the air around in the gallery just as they do in your home—makes them spin a  little) because Calder’s work is often lacy and delicate (like Hanging Spider, c. 1940, and Big Red, 1959) or funny or evocative (such as Sea Scape, 1947, which seems to show some influence of Joan Miró, another artist-friend of Calder’s, in the marine objects the sculptor sets afloat in the air) on its own, seeing them in motion is to see them the way the creator meant them to be.  Calder was intrigued by performing arts, specially dance, and he designed several stage sets that incorporated his mobile techniques.  

Indeed, the mobiles themselves contain a strong element of performativity both in the movements they make, which are seldom simple or straightforward, and their appeal to the . . . well, audience.  The components of many of the mobiles bounce or dip, rise and fall, or rotate as they spin.  A wonderful example of this effect is Blizzard (Roxbury Flurry) (1946), a large hanging mobile of small, white metal discs that, when immobile, evokes a snowstorm in suspended animation—and when activated, is an impressionist’s vision of snow flakes blown about by eccentric atmospheric effects.  The “flakes” seem to dance in the air to Calder’s long-ago choreography, rising and dipping as they circle around the mobile’s axis.

Now, I knew this from having seen some of the mobiles before—not activated, which is a rare experience because of the ages of the pieces and, in some instances, their precarious condition (the art handlers at the Whitney charged with putting the sculptures into motion have been carefully trained by Calder’s grandson Rower, president of the Calder Foundation, for this gig)—but what was new to me were the sound effects some of the pieces are designed to make and the shadow plays.  At least two of the mobiles in Hypermobility, one motorized (Square, c. 1934) and one wind-driven (Red  Panel, c. 1936), are constructed on a background of a large, flat, painted square of wood onto which the moving forms cast shadows that themselves move in patterns and shapes that reflect, but don’t exactly match, the objects.  It depends on the perspective of the viewer and the location of the light source, so while the “live” objects might seem unchanging and fixed, the shadow show is unpredictable.  When I studied Asian theater, I learned about wayang kulit, Indonesian shadow puppetry.  Spectators have a choice to sit in front of the screen and watch the shadow play, or behind the screen and watch the puppeteers manipulate the puppets.  With these Calder mobiles, you get both perspectives at once.  It’s two, two, two shows in one! 

I’ve said many times (regular ROTters will have read it in any of my reports on an art show) that when my mother and I used to go to an exhibit, we’d always assess the overall pleasure level by deciding what we’d come back for on a “midnight shopping trip.”  I’ve seen a few shows where I wouldn’t want any of the art on exhibit (the recent Whitney Biennial was in that category) but most have one or two pieces—three if it’s a big show—I’d love to put in my apartment.  Every once in a while, I go to a show after which I’d have to say I’d need to back a big truck up to the gallery and load in the whole exhibit.  The Whitney’s Calder: Hypermobility was like that!  I’d especially love to have some of his hanging mobiles (there are some that stand on the floor, such as my favorite piece, Aluminum Leaves, Red Post, 1941, or on a surface, like Myrtle Burl, 1941) because I have so many things on my walls, floors, and table tops that hanging from the ceiling is the only space I have where I could accommodate more art!  Besides, they’re such fun!!

The reviews for the Whitney’s Calder: Hypermobility were almost universally laudatory.  David D’Arcy in the New York Observer called Calder “a revolutionary with mass appeal.”  Of the sculptor’s art, D’Arcy said:

He played the materiality of sculpture in three dimensions against the immateriality of weightless objects suspended in the air.  A favorite gambit of his was to take inanimate objects and place them in motion.  The sculptures on view remind us that he kept trying, and kept coming up with new ways of doing this.

Though small, the Whitney exhibit shows “how [Calder] departed from those shared elements [with his peers] toward a greater simplicity or mobility or just a greater leap of the imagination.”  D’Arcy pointed out the persistent reflections of Miró (mentioning specifically Sea Scape) and other contemporaries like Matisse (in his cut-outs) “when the oversized snowflakes in Blizzard (Roxbury Flurry)  spin in two directions on two axes.”  The Observer art reviewer also observed:

When the works in “Hypermobility” are motionless, we get a silent harmony that seems to defy engineering logic.  When the works move, it seems proper to steal the description ballets mecaniques, a title coined for an earlier work by Fernand Leger.

And when the sculptures are “motorized” . . . movement brings enchantment to constructions that seem awkward when they just stand there.

D’Arcy summed up the Hypermobility experience by asserting:

“Calder: Hypermobility” will be a popular show, if not for the sheer imagination on view, then for the activator who moves in a chimney-sweep’s coat to keep the motion going when there’s no motor to do it.

That’s a fun kid-friendly novelty, yet what’s enduring about these inanimate sculptures is the life that Calder placed inside them.  But don’t worry, they won’t follow you down the stairs.

The Economist review affirmed that “no sculptor has incorporated the fourth dimension with Calder’s intelligence, dedication and sly humour.”  Hypermobility “chronicles the artist’s long investigation of form in motion.”   The earlier, motorized pieces, observed the unnamed reviewer, are the “surprises” of the show: they’re “clunky, quirky, infused with a Dadaist irreverence and sense of play.”  The Economist writer explained that “there is a revolution and a revelation lurking in these childlike elements—a demonstration that the immaterial stuff of time can be evoked through the most material of forms.”  Perceiving a link between Calder’s mobiles “and today’s performance and video art,” the Economist review-writer deemed, “Even at their most static, his works are theatrical, transforming the act of seeing into an open-ended choreographed experience.”  In the end, the Economist art reviewer warned:

Over the decades, Calder’s reputation has suffered from over-familiarity.  His works can feel too ingratiating, too crowd-pleasing, too user-friendly—the ubiquitous décor of the corporate lobby and the child’s nursery.  “Calder: Hypermobility” reveals an artist no less delightful than the one of the popular imagination, but also a pioneering sculptor who engineered a profound shift in this ancient practice.

In the Brooklyn Rail, Jason Rosenfeld called Calder: Hypermobility “an exquisite display” of Calder’s mobiles.  He even added that the presentation itself, in a large, open room, “is terrific,” explaining, “The atmosphere is generous, and the sculptures can breathe.”  The Rail art reviewer affirmed, “With his mobiles, he was able to draw or paint in air through the use of lines and colored forms moving in space,” stressing, “In Hypermobility, motion became paramount.”  He warned, however, that “Calder’s is durational, subtle, experiential art, demanding sustained looking” and not to expect “an active, immersive spectacle.”  Rosenfeld began his review by noting that in 20th-century modern art, “Whimsy was not part of the equation.  Neither was pathos, sentiment, affection, nor figuration.  Attractiveness, also, was a kind of neutral zone for many modern artists, not required, nor necessarily encouraged.”  He observed that in contrast, however, “[t]he art of Alexander Calder . . . was so radical because it was all of these and more.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Susan Delson posited, “Thoughts of a Calder work in motion might conjure up a mobile rotating lazily in the breeze.  But the artist intended a far wider range of movements—from furious vibration to random, sometimes violent collisions—that emerge only when the works are activated.”  She added, “An appreciation of randomness and chance underpins much of Calder’s sculpture,” as exemplified by many of the mobiles on display which, even when not activated by a handler, can start to move or produce sounds.  (Earlier I observed that the elements of Red Disc and Gong didn’t come together properly to strike the gong as intended, but several journalists, including Delson, reported that “air currents would occasionally stir it to break the silence with a clang that made visitors ‘jump out of [their] boots.’”)  Delson wondered, “Standing before a Calder mobile, who hasn’t been tempted to nudge it into motion?”  Calder: Hypermobility provides an opportunity to indulge that impulse.  The WSJ writer declared “that, after all, is why he designed them as mobiles.”

Jason Farago labeled the Whitney’s Hypermobility “a high-spirited showcase” in the New York Times.  The show “goes a long way to recapturing the guile and peculiarity of [Calder’s] spinning wires and discs.”  Describing the show as “bewitching and somewhat unexpected,” Farago found Hypermobility “wittier and wilier” than other Whitney exhibits of Calder works.  The Times reviewer reported that “where the suspended mobiles undulate with preternatural elegance, the motorized works can look winningly wobbly.”  He explained that “by treating dynamics itself as a means of expression . . ., Calder negated the possibility of perceiving these sculptures in a single fashion.  Where sculpture had once aspired to monumentality, Calder proposed an art in three dimensions that took infinite forms.”  Farago summed up the exhibit as “a display in perpetual flux.” 

Barbara Hoffman of the New York Post declared, “After years of staying still, Alexander Calder’s mobiles are fluttering back to life.”  She had a caveat, though: “But be warned: They move verrry slowwwly: It takes five minutes for one tiny rotation.”  Furthermore, “Listen closely, and you might even hear some works emit a faint ping.”  And despite Calder’s personal gravitas, the mobiles are “playful,” in Hoffman’s estimation.  Her conclusion?  “Happily, this summer, you’ll have more time to experience it.”

On the Theatre Times, John Tilley proclaimed that the “essence” of the Calder works on exhibit at the Whitney is “the tantalizing sense of anticipation.”  Faced with the “temptation to reach out and touch the sculptures, or perhaps simply blow on them to get them going,” Tilley watched as the spectators awaited the activation of the mobiles “with anticipation, even impatience.”  “In a skeptical, secular world,” the Theatre Times reviewer pronounced, “art objects celebrating temptation are our religious icons.”  He was disappointed that the handlers only activate four pieces each time, but decided that “was a part of the experience.”  The kinetic sculptures “dangle in a purgatorial space between endless anticipation and disappointment, of satisfaction and dissatisfaction—much like life, really.”  Then Tilley concluded: “It’s a testament to Calder’s craft that one cannot help but picture the entire room in motion as an immersive, joyful ballet of bobbing and twirling sculpture—but I suppose for that there’s always the theatre.” 

Artnet’s Julia Halperin called the results of the Whitney’s “ambitious, yearlong effort” to bring together Calder’s mobiles a “surprise,” principally for the display of the motorized pieces.  There are only 44 in existence and when they’re shown, “they are usually shown static.”  Halperin pointed out that “these pioneering works have historically taken a backseat to Calder’s more recognizable mobiles and wire sculptures” and quoted curator Sanders as saying, “You can’t anticipate the movement until” they’re reanimated.  Halperin reported that Rower, Calder’s grandson, observed that kinetic pieces he “thought would twirl at a zippy pace, ‘Josephine Baker-style,’ instead rotate so slowly as to be almost imperceptible.” 

On WNYC radio, a New York City outlet for National Public Radio, Deborah Solomon proclaimed in her very first sentence, “Alexander Calder is, to my mind, America’s greatest-ever sculptor”; but she had a caveat: “he suffers from overfamiliarity.”  “Everyone knows his light-as-air mobile, and his red-painted behemoths in public plazas across the country,” she asserted.  But, Calder: Hypermobility “manages to make the artist new again,” Solomon affirms.  “It is a show about motion that stops you in your tracks.”  The WNYC art reviewer, dubbing the exhibit “a dazzling installation,” observed that it “resembles theater” and that the sculptor is “a legitimate forefather of our current generation of performance artists.”  In the works on display, Solomon found, “Curving lines dominate, and the overall feeling of dreaminess can put you in mind of” Miró.  “You can say that Calder combined Surrealist poetry with American ingenuity.”  But the radio reviewer had a complaint: “My only qualm with the Whitney show is that it spills over into the adjacent café.”

A giant hole has been cut in the wall of the Calder gallery to allow viewers to see into the restaurant and beyond it, to the cityscape rising in the distance.  It’s scenic, yes, but brings unwanted noise and light.  We don’t need the view.  Calder is view enough.

In his New York Times review, Jason Farago quoted part of a passage by French playwright and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre describing Calder’s kinetic sculptures.  To me, it rings true, especially of Calder: Hypermobility.  Here’s the whole impression from “Calder’s Mobiles,” a chapter in the writer’s We Have Only this Life to Live:

One of Calder’s objects is like the sea and equally spellbinding: always beginning over again, always new.  A passing glance is not enough; you must live with it, be fascinated by it.  Then the imagination revels in these pure, interchanging forms, at once free and disciplined.

[It wasn’t all that long ago that I went to another art show where I said I’d need a van in which to haul off the whole collection on my midnight shopping trip.  It was MoMA’s Jackson Pollock: A Collection Survey: 1924-1954, and in that report (4 March 2016), I also wrote about my trepidation about seeing a show that I knew my late mother would have loved and that I probably would have saved to see with her.  More than a year later, I was disturbed to find that I still had that unease—a Calder show was the kind of exhibit we’d have made a point of doing together, like the Pollock—but I was also pleased to see that the hesitation was shorter-lived and less profound.  Mother’d have loved Calder: Hypermobility—but I did, too, in her absence.  At the Pollock, I felt a little guilty having enjoyed the show without her.  I didn’t feel that after the Calder.]

No comments:

Post a Comment