Calder '76 / The Cutouts
Sculptures Alexander Calder executed during 1976, the last year of his life, will be on view at PaceWildenstein (32 East 57th Street, New York City) from February 14 through March 16, 2002. This body of work represents Calder’s continued experimentation with working methods as well as his interest in pursuing new creative directions at the end of his career. Unlike Calder’s prior emphasis on motion, spontaneity and random re-composition, his work of 1976 demonstrates a shifting focus towards incorporating blocks of color and collage-like compositions into his oeuvre reminiscent of the late cutouts of Matisse. A full-color catalogue with an introductory essay by Mildred Glimcher will accompany the exhibition.
Created during the summer of 1976 in Saché, France, where Calder and his wife had been living since 1931, many of the pieces in Pace’s exhibition have not been shown since Galerie Maeght’s 1976 show in Paris entitled “Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles,” exhibited just after his death. As a result, Calder’s intimate pieces from this time are relatively unknown in comparison with the recognition his large-scale sculptures have received. Though Calder was chiefly occupied with public monuments and commissions during the last five years of his life, he returned to many of the creative interests that had engaged him throughout his career. Largely influenced by his visit to Mondrian’s Paris studio in 1930, Calder was captivated by Mondrian’s signature use of color and form. As Mildred Glimcher observes in her catalogue essay: “Artists’ late styles are marked by a fervent freedom of expression, and the distillation and intensification of much of their previous work…[The] issue of space and two and three dimensions engaged him all the time.” Calder’s indefatigable investigation into these subjects eventually yielded innovative interpretations. Glimcher summarizes: “In these works the shapes dominate. They do not seem to have been engineered to move in space; they do not gesture but are pinned together…These cascading forms are essentially pictorial, exploring a new kind of movement in space. They do not describe arcs of space, changing their relationship to one another, as do most of his mobiles. Rather, they tremble like ancient wind chimes, or oscillate…”
Alexander Calder (1898-1976) received a degree in mechanical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology (New Jersey) prior to studying at the Art Students League in New York between 1923 and 1925. In 1926 Calder received his first solo exhibition of paintings. Shortly thereafter, he began working on a miniature circus comprised of wood and wire figures until its completion in 1931. That same year, Calder started to construct “mobiles”—abstract sculpture with moving parts. Calder’s creative enterprises were cross-disciplinary and exceeded the traditional definitions of painting and sculpture; throughout the course of his career Calder developed sets for a variety of theatrical, musical, and dance performances, collaborated on films, illustrated books, produced wallpaper, fabrics, and costumes, created designs for racing cars and airplanes, and embraced humanitarian causes. Calder’s enterprising outlook was in many ways connected to his enthusiasm for travel. As a result of his multifarious involvements, Calder secured an international reputation and was awarded commissions, prizes and honorary degrees around the world. Accolades include: a commission for the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair (1937); first prize in the Rohm and Haas Plexiglass Sculpture Competition for the World’s Fair Hall of Industrial Science (1939); the Outstanding Citizen award by the City of Philadelphia (1955); separate commissions for the Brussels World’s Fair, the UNESCO building in Paris and the Idlewild (now Kennedy) International Airport in New York (all 1958); first prize at the Carnegie International Exhibition (1958); the Gold Medal of the Architectural League of New York award (1960); election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York (1960); award of the American Institute of Architects’ medal (1961); the Art in America annual award for Outstanding Contribution to American Art (1962); election to the American Academy of Art and Letters, New York (1964); title Chairman of Artists for SANE / Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (1965); conferral of Honorary Doctor of Art degree by Harvard University (1966); conferral of Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree by Stevens Institute of Technology (1969); the Gold Medal for Sculpture from the Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (1971); the Grand Prix National Des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture (1975); the U.N. Peace Medal award (1975); and the Bicentennial Artist award by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1976).
Calder’s work has been the subject of major traveling exhibitions and retrospectives throughout the world and is currently on view in “Grand Institutions: Calder’s Monumental Sculpture” at the Storm King Art Center (Mountainville, NY) through November 2004 and in “Alexander Calder: The Art of Invention” at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (Las Vegas, NV) through July 24, 2002.