24
May
12

Exhibition: ‘Alexander Calder – The Great Discovery’ at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands

Exhibition dates:  11th February – 28th May 2012

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Always one of my favourites. He only needed some wire, a pair of pliers and his own bare hands to create magic. Through life force Calder transfers his energy into the twists and turns of the wire, his will embodied in the kinetic energy of the sculptures. Wonderful to see the early work which I think has more vigour than the later, more flaccid stabiles.

Many thankx to Gemeentemuseum Den Haag for allowing me to post the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Alexander Calder
Cow
c. 1926
Wire and wood
8.9 x 20.5 x 9.9 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Edward M. M. Warburg

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Alexander Calder
Small Feathers
1931
Wire, hout, lead and paint
97.8 x 81.3 x 40.6 cm
Calder Foundation, New York

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Alexander Calder
Untitled (maquette)
Summer 1976
Aluminium and painted metal
65 x 72 x 39 cm
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo
Design by Calder, never ultimately executed, for a stabile/mobile to be sited in the sculpture garden at the Kröller-Müller Museum

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Alexander Calder
Josephine Baker (III)
c. 1927
Steel wire
99 x 56.6 x 24.5 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of the artist

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Last year the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag received the prestigious Turing Art Grant for its exhibition concept for Alexander Calder – The Great Discovery. The award has made it possible to go ahead with this huge project and this spring the Gemeentemuseum will present the first major Dutch Calder retrospective to be held since 1969. This relative neglect of Calder is surprising since he used to be regarded in the Netherlands as the most important American artist of the post-war period. Early on, Calder redefined sculpture by drawing three-dimensional figures and portraits with wire in space. Then, in 1930, he visited Mondrian’s studio in Paris, which was to be a turning point in his career. Calder admired Mondrian’s use of space and converted it into his own artistic expression grounded in gesture and immateriality. That realization and the way it radically changed his work is the key focus of this exhibition.

Alexander Calder (1898 – 1976) grew up in a family full of creative energy: his father was a sculptor and his mother painted. As a child, he made small sculptures, model animals and jewellery from whatever materials came to hand. Even so, he trained initially as an engineer and did not attend art school until 1923. His technical education would enable him to translate his passion for movement into art; everything he made was kinetic. This was a major innovation: never again would sculpture be seen as necessarily a matter of chisels and blocks of wood or stone.

Between 1926 and 1933 Calder lived in Paris, then the heart of the modern art movement. At this stage, Calder redefined sculpture by drawing three-dimensional figures and portraits with wire in space and he was famous for the regular performances he gave with the complete and complex miniature circus Cirque Calder (1926-1931) he had concocted from everyday materials like wire, wood, leather, cork and scraps of cloth. All the circus figures could be made to move: acrobats swayed across the tightrope, dogs jumped through hoops and the elephant stood up on its back legs.

The central feature of the forthcoming exhibition is a complete reconstruction of Mondrian’s studio in the Rue du Départ. This exhibit marks Calder’s transition from figurative to abstract art: it was his visit to this studio in 1930 that triggered a radical change in his artistic practice. Abandoning his figurative sculptures, he became an abstract artist. He began to add red, black or white discs to his wire and to produce mobiles of increasing size, in which he constantly sought to combine equilibrium and movement.

The exhibition includes a film that was shown in the Netherlands in the early 1930s. Made by Hans Cürlis in 1929, it shows Alexander Calder creating two wire circus figures with no more than a pair of pliers and his own bare hands. Even then, Calder was regarded as the most innovative sculptor because of his novel choice of methods and materials.

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Alexander Calder
Acrobats
c. 1927
Wire and wood
87.6 x 22.9 x 30.5 cm
Calder Foundation, New York
Gift of Katherine Merle-Smith Thomas in memory of Van Santvoord Merle-Smith, Jr., 2010

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Alexander Calder
Circus Scene
1929
Wire, wood and paint
127 x 118.7 x 46 cm
Calder Foundation, New York

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Alexander Calder
13 Spines
1940
Painted steel
195 cm high
Museum Ludwig, Keulen

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Alexander Calder
Untitled
c. 1952
Painted metal
34.5 cm high
Private collection

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Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Stadhouderslaan 41
2517 HV Den Haag
Postbus 72
2501 CB Den haag
T: 070-3381111

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11.00 – 17.00

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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