“I went to see Mondrian. I
was very much moved by Mondrian’s studio, large, beautiful and irregular in
shape as it was, with the walls painted white and divided by black lines and
rectangles of bright colour, like his paintings. It was very lovely, with a cross-light
(there were windows on both sides), and I thought at the time how fine it would
be if everything there moved; though Mondrian himself did not approve of this
idea at all.”
—Alexander Calder, “Mobiles” in The Painter’s Object, 1937
his visit to Piet Mondrian
’s apartment in 1930, Alexander Calder
threw himself into his work
and for three weeks straight, dedicated himself to purely abstract paintings.
He would soon apply abstraction to sculptural works and a year later he created
his first mobiles. Mondrian is one of several prominent artist friends from the
Parisian avant-garde who played a key role in shaping the American artist’s
career. The illustrious circle of artists that surrounded Calder throughout his
career is one subject explored in “Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion” on
view (through Jan. 12, 2014) at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf.
Organized in collaboration with the Calder Foundation
, the show investigates
Calder’s journey into abstraction and kinetic sculpture, and includes key
artworks by his famous contemporaries.
In the preface to
a 1931 Calder catalogue
, another friend, Fernand Léger
, offered his praise for Calder, and formally
welcomed him to the upper ranks of the avant-garde: “Looking at these new
works—transparent, objective, exact—I think of Satie, Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp,
Brancusi, Arp—these unchallenged masters of unexpressed and silent beauty.
Calder is in the same family.”
fall of 1931 another friend, Marcel Duchamp
, coined the term mobile
to describe the kinetic sculptures that Calder had begun to make. Subsequently,
questioned what Calder would call his stationary sculptures
and suggested stabiles
. The terms stuck and came to define the two
groups of sculptural works that the artist made for the rest of his career.
Calder shared with Arp the
tendency to employ an organic language in his work, a characteristic also found
in one of his best friend’s work, Joan Miró
. Calder’s lifelong friendship with Miró began
in Paris in the late 1920s. Both embraced the cosmos (both artists had
“Constellation” series) and biomorphism in their works, and several exhibitions
have been organized around the pair due to their similarities in aesthetics and
their esteem for one another. For their 1961 exhibition “Miró-Calder” at Perls
Gallery in New York, Miró wrote the following poem about his friend:
Sandy, this burly man with the
soul of a
nightingale who blows on mobiles
nightingale who makes his nest
mobiles scraping the bark
great friend Sandy lives
in [Margit Rowell (ed.)], Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews,
1986, p. 255).
Like the man himself,
Calder’s sculptures are individual masterpieces, yet they are enhanced when
Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion,” on view at the Kunstsammlung
Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, through January 12, 2014.