After months of reading and hearing about how fabulous the Alexander Calder exhibit at the Whitney is, I finally made the trek uptown yesterday to see what all of the fuss is about. I think my prior reluctance to do so had to do both with the inhospitable weather we've been having (there was a very welcome reprieve this weekend with lots of sun and temperatures in the 40s and 50s), but also was a result of my limited exposure to his work.
My idea of Calder was, I believe, formed by a trip to the National Gallery when I was in...high school maybe? I have a very clear image of those sort of 70s looking massive mobiles hanging in an atrium:
Now I realize that there is a huge amount of skill involved in getting something like this to balance in the way that it does, but beyond that, on a purely aesthetic level, this is not the type of piece that I respond to. So I went on through life assuming that I was not a Calder fan.
But after an afternoon wandering through the fourth floor of the Whitney, I cannot believe how completely wrong I was. The man was a damn genius!
Portraits out of wire:
I love how it kind of looks like a drawing, but isn't.
A rendition of the lovely Josephine Baker:
Some props from his utterly charming "Circus".
I read that Circus was a wildly popular piece of performance art of Calder's in Paris in the 30s, but given how excited I am by performance art generally (read: not very) I was not looking forward to seeing it. However, again, I judge too prematurely and too ignorantly. They had a film of it playing, and like much of the rest of the exhibit, it was totally whimsical and charming. He essentially stages a puppet show with his tiny circus figurines. It seemed to be quite popular with both the young and the not so young, based on the mirthful reaction of the crowds I saw today.
I found myself smiling throughout my time in exhibition. It was adorable, creative and fanciful. Exactly the kind of antidote we all need in this ugly, uninspired and very serious time.