Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Alexander Calder, home god of Moma, still holds sway

Where the Museum of Modern Art is concerned, sculptor Alexander Calder was something like its American Picasso. Both were children of academically trained artists. Both changed their lives in a three-decade-long encounter with the Parisian avant-garde. Morden exhibited both early and often and acquired his work in some abundance – however, at Moma, no other artist came close to Picasso’s numbers. Much of the success of each artist was associated with the museum; To some extent both were part of the MOMA brand, if in very different ways. For one thing, Calder has been MIA for some time.

Excellent show “Alexander Calder: From Modern Start” He has his first major single since 1969 at MOMA. It is a housework that is primarily to tell the story of Calder Holdings of the museum and its relationship with this early favorite in the archives. Many of the unfamiliar debts of the Calder Foundation fill the plot.

It includes early toilet sculptures of artist animals and their magnificent wire drawings and ornaments; His famous hanging, slow moving mobiles; Constellations mounted on his wall and earthly razors; And a sprinkling of extraordinary works on paper.

The show’s subtitle replaces Calder’s abrupt conversion when, on a visit to the Parisian studio of painter Pete Mondrian at the age of 32 in 1930, he suddenly discovered what modernity and abstraction was. Equally, it indicates his rapid ascent into the massive European panthon of Moma’s cast, where he occupied a place unlike any other American until Jackson Pollock came along.

Epilogue and Ascension were linked. Calder’s stature in Moma is attributed to a European lineage for American artists of the period, both because his artistic life actually began in Paris and because he brought European strains of modernism through his rustic American sensibility Filtered.

After earning an engineering degree in 1919, Calder committed to being an artist and enrolled in the Art Students League in New York, making paintings and also fashioning animals in wood and then wood and wire.

By 1926, Calder was in Paris, where he spent the most time over the next several years, and where a friend asked him to lose the wood and keep the wire. He entered his toy-making instinct into a miniature circus of some 100 pieces – simple, almost fat-cute – and began performing “Sirke Calder” in Paris art circles, leading to Fernand Lager, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Earp and Became an immediate fan of Mondrian. .

Calder’s MoMA first came in December 1930, when his four wooden wooden sculptures “Painting and Sculpture by Living Americans, “A group show that barely opened a year after the museum’s inauguration. By then Calender was artistically elsewhere, inspired by Mondrian’s example. He was, in fact, developing into a ubiquitous modernist whose The work could have fit in many places on the museum’s neoclassical map of advanced styles and mediums. For example, in 1936 he was in bothCubism and abstract artIn spring and, at the end of the year, to mention “magnificent art, grandfather and surrealism” but two of the museum’s leading shows. He was also a defense against MoMA’s growing complaints about European bias.

“Modern from the Start” is organized by Currey Mans, an associate of painting and sculpture, and opens with a gallery of large all-black, sheet-metal works – three sculptures, two from the 30s to the 50s maquettes – and then becomes chronological.

The austerity of the first gallery is staggering. It may have something to do with epistemology, but mainly it reminds us that while visual intelligence is rarely absent, Calder’s work has its dignity, on the one hand. The next gallery is smaller, dominating his notable wire works from the late 1920s – including portraits (a full-length rendition of French-American entertainer Josephine Baker) and several farm animals, among them an elegant sow and a cow Is in silver. Wire with three small cows of brass.

The contrast between the first two galleries – large black sculptures and delicate wire pieces – forms a cold primer. Creating multiple cut-out sheet-metal planes, the sculptures emphasize their control of fine-grained shapes, both round and straight-edged, and their ability to angle them together so that your interpretations of animal, human, and appendage Change the middle with uneasiness, as you walk around them. Libra-chord pieces speak for their extreme sensitivity to the line, including linear shadows cast by chord portraits, which provide alternative, moody expressions.

As the show arrives at the next gallery, look down and to the right to see 1930. “Shark sucker, “A small clean log that Calder transformed into a fish with an ax and a few well-placed bites of a drilled eye. Call it Adjusted Ready-Made.

The remainder of the exhibition is a large, loosely divided space that tracks Calder after 1930, examining various modes of modernism. The first pieces here include wire, wood, painted shells and motors (unfortunately, no longer operative). Early examples of kinetic art, they reveal the previously unknown fickleness of Russian constrictivism. They are the most beloved abstraction in the history of modernist art, partly because they are too handmade to be purely abstract. They flow with personality, a condition of much of Calder’s art. Begins with this section “A universe“(1934), series of multiple wire circles, two shells and two S-like wiggles, in a thick black pipe, in a wire. As its title implies, the ensemble creates a small, self-contained universe. It The first calder of the museum was the year it was built.

In the 1930s, Calder recaptured some of his early pieces of animal energy for more elegant semi-abstract works, such as the incompetent “Spider” (1939), whose repeated appendages include a chore de ballet routine. Which is also cinematic. “Swiss sticks“(1936) Liens constructivists weigh four wooden sticks with small balls of lead, and swing before a bright red panel, dancing on the air. Great”Gibraltar“(1936) is a surrealist object of equal excellence, almost a small peak sliced ​​through a plane of polished nut, supporting two shells and a crescent, two up and one down.

The flanking “Gibraltar” is two exceptional, if less suicidal, pieces from the Calder Foundation. From “White Panels” (1936), a large black C painted metal protrudes around two strong squares and looks like an off-kilter scientific model. “Apple Monster” (1938), which combines raw and carved wood, painted white, black, red and green, looks as if it was done by the great exterior Bessie Harvey.

While Picasso became a god in Morden, Calder was more of a domestic god. When asked, the Bauhaus Staircase of the museum’s new 1939 International Style Building was not a pretty mobile one, nor for a party celebrating its first decade to come up with the surprisingly clever Candelabra, that up was not. (It is in this show.)

But the museum’s focus on Calder was not sustained. In 1943, he wrote to a curator saying that he needed its financial and moral support, which seems to have prompted a large Calder survey of the museum later that year. (Tell, Adhunik bought his first Polak in 1943, “She-wolf, “Made that year.) The artist expressed his gratitude with the gift of several key pieces, including – in this show -” Shark Sucker, “” Gibraltar, “” Spider “and” Sandy Butterfly, “a strong one. , The shining perennial sculpture garden. The museum had the last major node in Cluster in 1969 for some 100 works.

And so here we are. After half a century, Morden has welcomed Calder back with the beauty of a show that will make the world a better place over the next several months.

Alexander Calder: From the Modern Beginning

Through August 7 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan. 212-708-9400; moma.org.

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