Alexander Calder

American sculptor and painter, born at Lawnton, a suburb of Philadelphia. His grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder, and his father, Alexander Stirling Calder. were sculptors and his mother was a painter. His father had charge of the sculptural work for the Los Angeles World Exhibition in 1912. Alexander Calder, however, studied mechanical engineering from 1915 to 1919 and began to take an interest in landscape painting only in 1922 after having tried his hand at a variety of jobs. In 1923 he enrolled at the School of the Art Students' League. New York, where George LUKS and John SLOAN were among the teachers. Calder and his fellow students made a game of rapidly sketching people in the streets and the underground and Calder was noted for his skill in conveying a sense of movement by a single unbroken line. He also took an interest in sport and circus events and contributed drawings to the satirical National Police Gazette. From these activities it was but a step to his wire sculptures, the first of which -- a sun-dial in the form of a cock -- was done in 1925. In 1927 he made moving toys for the Gould Manufacturing Company and small figures of animals and clowns with which he gave circus performances in his studio. His first exhibition of paintings was in the Artists' Gal.. New York, in 1926; his first Paris one-man show was in the Gal. Billiet in 1929 and the Foreword to the catalogue was written by PASCIN. whom he had met the previous year. His wire figures were exhibited by Carl Zigrosser at the Weyhe Gal. and Bookshop, New York, in 1928 and at the Neumann and Nierendorf Gal., Berlin, in 1929, when they were made the subject of a short film by Dr. Hans Curlis. During the 1930s Calder became known both in Paris and in America for his wire sculpture and portraits, his abstract constructions and his drawings. In 1931 he joined the ABSTRACTION-CREATION association and in the same year produced his first non-figurative moving construction. The construetions which were moved by hand or by motor power were baptized 'mobiles' in 1932 by Marcel DUCHAMP and ARP suggested 'stabiles' for the non-moving constructions in the same year. It was in 1934 that Calder began to make the unpowered mobiles for which he is most widely known. Constructed usually from pieces of shaped and painted tin suspended on thin wires or cords, these responded by their own weight to the faintest air currents and were designed to take advantage of effects of changing light created by the movements. Thev were described by Calder as 'four-dimensional drawings'. and in a letter to Duchamp written in 1932 he spoke of his desire to make 'moving Itlondrians'. Calder was in fact greatly impressed by a visit to Mondrian in 1930 and no doubt envisaged himself as bringing movement to Mondrian-type geometrical abstracts. Yet the personality and outlook of the two men were very different. Calder`s pawky delight in the comic and fantastic, which obtrudes even in his large works, was at the opposite pole from the Messianic seriousness of Mondrian. Calder continued to do both mobiles and stabiles until the 1970s, sometimes combining the two into one structure. Some of these works were of very large dimensions: Teodelapio (1962), a stabile for the city of Spoleto, was 18 m high and 14 m long; Man, done for the Montreal World Exhibition of 1967, was 23 m high; Red Sun (1967) for the Olympic Stadium, Mexico, was 24 m high and the motorized hanging mobile Red. Black and Blue (1967) at Dallas airport was 14 m wide. His interest in animal figures and the circus also continued into the 1970s and in 1971 he was making 'Animobiles' reminiscent of animals. Although he had done gouaches since the late 1920s, he began to take a more serious interest in them and to exhibit them from 1952.

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