Alexander Calder is one of the most influential artists of the XXth
century. His work expanded the boundaries of sculpture. He achived a
real revolution of this genre. Movement, lightness, sensibility when
using simple materials, the creation of a moving sculpture that needs
no pedestal, gravity and balance... These are some of the are
pioneering concepts that he developed throughout all his career.
style is the connection between the sensibility of the international
artistic avant-garde and the authentic naivety of an American artist. As
James Johnson Sweeney pointed out, Calder was an artist genuinely
American, a mixture of perceptiveness and curiosity together with
roughness and strenght. His style is pure joie de vivre, sensibility and
The sense of humor in his works about the circus (wich
he began when he first moved to New York in 1923 where he joined the
Art Students League) is a perfect example of his high spirit and sense
of celebration. One of his first works were the drafts for the Circus of
the Ringling Brothres and Barnum and Baily. This would come a
fundamental experience for his development as an artist and since then,
the circus became a constant theme in his career.
moves to Paris in 1926, his steel wire works and the Cirque Calder, were
the medium to introduce himself into the artistic scene of Paris.
Portraits of his friends and well-known characters of the time in wire
cable started in this period. Within his friends, artists as Joan Miró,
Marcel Duchamp and Fernand Léger, among others.
works were extremely delicate compositions of two or three wire elements
and small wood spheres describing spherical or triangular spaces
sculpture. These drove him in 1932 to create works with a system of
cranks named “mobiles” by Marcel Duchamp. Calder declared “ I’ve
always liked to do small works with my hands. One day when I went to
visit Mondrian, and when I saw his canvas, I felt like doing animated
painting. Forms moving. He also experimented with non-moving abstract
forms creating works named stabiles by the artist Jean Arp.
found the Universe as the inspiration for his works “the shape´s sense
which underlies in my work has been the Universe´s system…..the idea of
floating bodies in the space, of different sizes and densities, and
different colours and temperatures... it looks to me the ideal source of
In 1937 he had his first solo show at Pierre
Matisse Gallery “Stabiles and Mobiles”. Calder defined the concept of
his works: Why art has to be static? What you see is an abstraction,
sculpted or painted, a highly passionated combination of planes,
spheres, nucleus, without the minimum meaning. It might be perfect, but
it will always remain moveless. The next in sculpture is movement.
though Calder is mostly known as sculptor, he painted gouaches since
the very beginning and continued this activity through all his career.
As he declared, he enjoyed painting gouaches because of the speed it
offered and the surprises that the medium provided. Calder’s gouaches,
apparently simple, are works joyously conceived, firmly structured and
Very early in his career he also had
important commissions for public spaces. The Mercury Fountain for the
Spanish Pavillion at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1937 and the
mobile Lobster Trap and Fish Tail, for the stairwell at the Museum of
Modern Art in New York.
One of his first monumental commissions
of architectonic scale date from 1953. The Sculpture for Rosenhof wich
the model is featured in the exhibition, was first conceived for a
public garden in Hamburg for the Rosenhof family with a size of 25 feet
high. The nature of his abstract compositions along with the materials
and construction allowed the idea of abstraction to expand beyond the
gallery space, the studio or the museum, being very important for the
development of public and monumental art.
During the fifties
Calder achieved enormous recognition as one of the leading artists of
his generation and had various museums exhibitions within Europe and
the United States. He continued to do mobiles and other works that were
at once lyrical inventions, technical, almost mathematic compositions;
and the sensuos symbols of nature.
In 1976, the year of his
decease, the Whitney Museum of American Art had a large retrospective
exhibition of his work. Calder dies at 78 and is considered one of the
most prolific artists of his generation.
Recent exhibitions in the gallery