Alexander Calder at Whitney Museum

 


Calder: Hypermobility exhibition closed at Whitney on October 23rd, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend it on the very last day of the event. It was a great afternoon out and it was an interesting experience discovering this legendary museum in its new quirky location, the meatpacking district in the lower Manhattan.. With 8 floors of stylish display space, gorgeous outdoor terraces, and airy outdoor galleries, the setting provided a great backdrop to Calder’s exhibition and framed it powerfully.

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The exhibition was held in the small hall on the top floor and at the time we arrived, the performance of the Calder statues in motion was just beginning. It was fascinating to watch museum staff, with their gloves, pushing a hidden button which made the figures come alive, which visualized that the kinetic nature of Calder’s work is closely related to the concept of performance. Unsurprisingly, Calder’s work attracted interest of filmmakers, and is featured in a number of films, including the movie Dreams That Money Can Buy, which explores the unconscious, and features a number of Calder’s objects and drawings.

 


This exhibition provided a rare opportunity to experience works as the artist intended the to be experiences, namely in motion that is provoked by human touch or air currents. The artist’s devotion to setting abstract objects in motion started in the 1930s, when in 1931 Calder used motors to mobilize them, aiming to help people reimagine the spatial and temporal relationships of compositional elements. Using motors helped Calder to control each individual element of his installations, generating what he described as “infinite combinations”

 

The genesis of Calder’s artistic focus lies in his 1930 visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio, which inspired him tremendously. Other artists he admired are evident in his work and include Leger, Arp, Duchamp, Klee and Picasso. Moreover, many shapes Calder used in his art were influenced by Miro. Notably, Calder’s interest in composing unique forms of motion also extended to his balanced bronze sculptures.

 

Calder’s art can be experienced in many museums and galleries, including the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C