Newly Published Photos Reveal Alexander Calder's Dynamic Style

Jul 30, 2013 7:40PM

Born in Switzerland in 1907, the graphic designer Herbert Matter is largely remembered for bringing a European, avant-garde perspective with him when he immigrated to New York in 1936. But the recently released Calder by Matter should do much to revive his reputation as a gifted photographer. The first book to be published by the legendary, newly-revived Paris publisher Cahiers d’Art, the impeccably produced, oversize volume of Matter images captures Alexander Calder and his magical art in radical, unexpected ways.

Matter gained privileged access to Calder’s playful world, shooting the artist and his creations both in his Upper East Side studios and in early gallery shows. When Calder moved to bucolic Connecticut, Matter followed with his camera. And although Calder’s surroundings became more comfortable, the work never lost its exuberance, nor did the artist relinquish his childlike joy in making it.

The new book takes us to 1950, when Calder's place in the Modernist pantheon was secure, and Matter had created the definitive account of the artist's creative process and his dazzling art, which freed sculpture from its base, and even from the ground. In photographing sculptures, Matter reveals ethereal shadows as the most important elements for evoking the solidity of the objects themselves. His use of light to indicate motion is practically Einsteinian in its implications for photography.

The major discovery of this volume is 'Mobiles in Motion,' a series of stark black-and-white photographs of Calder's iconic kinetic sculpture. These wondrous images, capturing multiple moments in a mobile's trajectory, transcend all previous photographic documents of sculpture; they exist as independent works of photography, achieving their power by showing a familiar object -- a Calder mobile -- in an entirely new way.

Filled with scores of captivating photos of sculptures, some mounted in fields like abstract colossuses, others displayed on windowsills, the volume is interspersed with intimate photos of Calder himself -- napping in the lap of his wife on lawn of their Roxbury, Connecticut home, or lost at work in his beautifully chaotic, gigantic barn of a studio.

The groundbreaking 'Mobiles in Motion' images are depicted both in full-bleed reproductions in the book, and have also been published as a limited-edition set of gelatin-silver prints for collectors. The standard edition of this beautiful book is a bargain at $95, but serious collectors will covet thespecial edition, which, for $2,950, is stunningly presented in a handmade aluminum case (evoking the materials of many of the mobiles themselves) with a portfolio of six numbered gelatin-silver prints.

1. Alexander Calder in his Roxbury, Connecticut, studio, 1941.
2. Hi!circa 1928.
3. Hanging mobile, 1936, frozen.
4-8. Hanging mobile, 1936, set in motion.
9. Morning Star, 1943
10. Stabile and Spiny, two 1939 maquettes photographed on the sidewalk outside Calder’s Manhattan studio.
11. Vertical Constellation with Bomb, 1943