Friday, July 6, 2012

Calder, Alexander

gouache on paper
73.3 x 106.7 cm (28 7/8 x 42 in.)
location unknown

Alexander Calder (1898 - 1976), born in Philadelphia, was an American sculptor best known as the originator of the mobile, a type of kinetic sculpture the delicately balanced or suspended components of which move in response to motor power or air currents; by contrast, Calder’s stationary sculptures are called stabiles. He also produced numerous wire figures, notably for a vast miniature circus.

Calder was one of the most prolific and influential artists of the 20th century.
He achieved international acclaim through his abstract paintings, mobiles, stabiles, lithographs, and jewelry. His parents, also acclaimed artists, surrounded him and his older sister with materials and a studio, which allowed Calder to display his preternatural manipulation of metal and clay. After graduating from Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1919, Calder worked a multitude of jobs, including a crewmember on a boat, where on a voyage from San Francisco to New York he was startled awake by a sunset opposite a full moon, simultaneously hovering on the horizon. He moved to New York and became an artist shortly after this profound experience. While illustrating circus life for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, he began constructing kinetic sculptures out of wire. By creating his own three-dimensional forms,  known as mobiles, some of his most famous creations, Calder redefined sculpture through wire twisted into abstract arrangements that float in accordance with the wind. Calder’s influence blossomed throughout the mid-20th century, resulting in multiple commissions for large-scale public sculptures.

Two months after his death, Calder was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, by President Gerald Ford. However, representatives of the Calder family boycotted the January 10, 1977 ceremony "to make a statement favoring amnesty for Vietnam War draft resisters."