Alexander Calder

4 piece(s) in the gallery

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Despite his obvious talent, Calder didn't initially set out to become an artist. Instead, he graduated with an engineering degree. Calder worked a variety of jobs, including a hydraulics engineer, automotive engineer, timekeeper in a logging camp, and fireman in a ship's boiler room. Shortly after these endeavors, in 1923, he moved to New York in and enrolled at the Art Students League.

Calder accepted an illustration job with the National Police Gazette, which sent him to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch scenes for a few weeks in 1925. The circus became an undying love of Calder's. After moving to Paris in 1926, he created Cirque Calder, an intricate and distinctive body of art. He discovered that he enjoyed working with wire for his circus and soon began to sculpt portraits of his friends as well as public figures of the era. In 1928 Calder was given his first solo exhibition at the Weyhe Gallery in New York. He made friends with numerous prominent artists and intellectuals of the early twentieth century, including Joan Miro, Fernand Leger, James Johnson Sweeney, and Marcel Duchamp.

A significant turning point in Calder's artistic career came about in 1931 when he produced his first kinetic sculpture and gave form to a totally new genre of art. The first of these pieces moved by systems of cranks and motors, and were labeled "mobiles" by Marcel Duchamp. Calder soon abandoned the mechanical aspects of these works when he realized he could construct mobiles that would rotate with air currents.

In 1937, Calder made his first large-bolted non-kinetic sculpture, or "stabile", composed entirely from sheet metal. Calder then received commissions to make both Mercury Fountain for the Spanish Pavilion at the Parisian World Fair and Lobster Trap and Fish Tail, a massive mobile installed in the main stairwell of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Calder's amazing abilities and innovations were renowned worldwide by the '60s, and a retrospective of his work opened at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1964.

In 1976, he attended the opening of yet another retrospective of his work, Calder's Universe, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Weeks later, Calder died at the age of 78, ending the most prolific and pioneering artistic career of the twentieth century.

*Citation: Calder Foundation:

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