I read an article this morning about how the the Whitney Museum of American Art is putting on an exhibition of Alexander Calder’s early work, focusing on his miniature Circus (1926-1931). Why can’t NYC be a hour away? I need a tele-portation device . . . Scotty, beam me to the Whintey!
Alexander Calder was an American sculptor and artist most famous for inventing the mobile. He is considered to be a defining force of twentieth century sculpture. Many Chicagoans are familiar with his “Flamingo” sculpture in Federal Plaza, however the majority of his major works are centered around Philadelphia. I appreciate these large scale works, but my favorites has always been his earlier works of wire portraits and small-scale sculptures. Calder’s ability to capture the essence of the subject with a single line has always been breathtaking to me. I particularly love his miniature circus performers, which is the showcase of the Whitney exhibit.
Calder created a vast array of performers for his circus, along with scenery, props, and animals, from only wire, bits of wood, cork, and scraps of fabric. He would often put on a “show”, much like an early version of performance art, for friends, fellow artists, and audiences. This would become his calling card and helped him break into to art world.
His performance was immortalized in the 1955 film “Le Grand Cirque Calder 1927,” directed by Jean Painlevé. For those of you who have not had the chance to see it, please check out some of it here.