Monday, February 9, 2009

Turning Over A New Leaf

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.

Adorable take on the aquarium:

Circus figurines:

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.


Terry B said...

I'm so glad you reconsidered Calder, Laura. While I find his smaller-scaled wire pieces charming, I have to admit, I'm a sucker for the bigger, more ambitious works. My favorite is right here in Chicago, his 53-foot Flamingo. All that said, the wire sculptures beautifully capture his playfulness--and his sheer artistry. They capture perfect images in a few simple lines, just as surely as Picasso's line drawings did.

Laura said...

Ooooh...that is pretty breathtaking. So funny you should mention Picasso...his drawings were exactly what came to mind when I saw the sculptures!

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