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Whitney Museum: "Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933" Brochure

Whitney Museum: "Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933" Brochure


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When Alexander “Sandy” Calder (1898–1976), arrived in Paris in 1926, he aspired to be a painter; when he left in 1933, he had evolved into the artist we know today: an international figure and defining force in twentieth-century sculpture. In these seven years Calder’s fluid, animating drawn line transformed from two dimensions to three, from ink and paint to wire, and his radical innovations included openform wire caricature portraits, a bestiary of wire animals, his beloved and critically important miniature Circus (1926–31), abstract and figurative sculptures, and his paradigm-shifting “mobiles.”

The Whitney has the largest body of work by Alexander Calder in any museum and is proud to be the exclusive American venue for this landmark exhibition, co-organized with the Centre Pompidou.
When Alexander “Sandy” Calder (1898–1976), arrived in Paris in 1926, he aspired to be a painter; when he left in 1933, he had evolved into the artist we know today: an international figure and defining force in twentieth-century sculpture. In these seven years Calder’s fluid, animating drawn line transformed from two dimensions to three, from ink and paint to wire, and his radical innovations included openform wire caricature portraits, a bestiary of wire animals, his beloved and critically important miniature Circus (1926–31), abstract and figurative sculptures, and his paradigm-shifting “mobiles.”

The Whitney has the largest body of work by Alexander Calder in any museum and is proud to be the exclusive American venue for this landmark exhibition, co-organized with the Centre Pompidou.

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Published by: whitneymuseum on Sep 16, 2008
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When Alexander “Sandy” Calder (1898–1976) arrived in Paris in 1926, he aspired to be a painter; when he left in 1933, he had evolved

into the artist we know today: an force in twentieth-century sculpture. animating drawn line transformed from two dimensions to three, from ink and paint to wire, and his radical innovations included openform wire caricature portraits, a bestiary of wire animals, his beloved and critically important miniature Circus (1926–31), abstract and paradigm-shifting “mobiles.”

PArIS: A FAmIly legACy
Alexander “Sandy” Calder (1898–1976), just shy of twenty-eight years old, arrived in Paris in July 1926 by way of England, making the transatlantic journey by working on a freighter. Both of his parents were artists who had studied in Paris. In the 1890s his mother, Nanette Lederer (1866–1960), a painter, attended the Académie Julien and the Sorbonne after her studies at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; his father, sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder (1870–1945), studied at the Académie Julien and the École des Beaux Arts, after also training at the Academy. Following their individual trips, they met at the Pennsylvania Academy, where she again was studying and to which he had returned from Paris to become an instructor of anatomy. Calder’s sister Margaret (known as “Peggy”) wrote, “family legend has it that Father and Mother met over a cadaver.”1 They married in 1895, and returned to Paris for a short time. Peggy was born in Paris in 1896; Sandy was born two years later in Lawnton, Pennsylvania. Calder’s paternal grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder (1846–1923), had also visited and worked in Paris and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy; he was celebrated in the 1890s for his colossal public sculptures, among them a 36-ton, 27-foot-high figure of William Penn, installed atop Philadelphia’s City Hall in 1894, which remains a landmark today. Working on sculpture commissions involved frequent travel for Calder’s father, who at times relocated his family as well, and intermittently experienced financial insecurity. His son was not initially drawn to a life’s work as an artist. Calder had heard of the profession of mechanical engineering from a schoolmate at high school in San Francisco. After graduating, he attended the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he

studied engineering principles that would have important implications for his later sculptures. Calder received his degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens in 1919 and held numerous engineering-related and other odd jobs between then and 1922, but none was very satisfying. During a hiatus between jobs in 1922, he took night classes in drawing in Manhattan. “I became very enthusiastic—more so than in any other of my post-college ventures so far—and I attended consistently,” he later recalled.2 The following year, after the last of these jobs at a logging camp in Independence, Washington, Calder returned East to study at New York’s Art Students League.

NeW york: SeeINg the CIty WIth “SANdy” CAlder
Between 1923 and 1925 Calder studied life and pictorial composition with John Sloan, portrait painting with George Luks, head and figure painting with William Pène du Bois, and life drawing with Boardman Robinson.3 Calder credited Robinson for encouraging his talents in drawing with a single line, a technique in which the drawing implement does not leave the paper. His facility at line drawing led to his newspaper illustration work for the National Police Gazette, the New Yorker, and the New York Times, among others. Calder’s fluid drawing enlivened the renderings of animals that he made during visits to New York’s Central Park and Bronx zoos (fig. 1) and that were published in his teaching manual Animal Sketching (1926), for which he also wrote the texts. Like his teachers, Calder took as his subjects scenes from everyday life. He exhibited in group shows in New York, including a painting of a circus sideshow in an early exhibition at the downtown Whitney Studio Club, a precursor to the Whitney Museum of American Art. His

Fig. 1. Untitled (Monkey), 1925. Ink on paper, 5 9/16 x 3 3/4 in. (14.1 x 9.5 cm). Calder Foundation, New York

city views reveal his engineer’s eye and an affinity for movement—ideas he would develop in new materials and new forms in Paris. There his drawn line, transformed to lengths of ordinary wire, would become what he called “wire sculpture (or threedimensional drawing).”4

Calder gave few reasons for his decision to go to Paris; simply put: “Paris was the place to go, on all accounts of practically everyone who had been there, and I decided I would also like to go.”5 Paris during the 1920s—“Les Années Folles” (the crazy years)—was a city

still recovering from the great loss of life and economic devastation of World War I yet it remained the fabled city of many liberties—social, sexual, political, racial, and cultural. By comparison, Calder’s homeland of the United States was, in the “Roaring Twenties,” unharmed by war and experiencing a buoyant economic upswing, but faced increasing isolationism, racial divides, and conservatism (indeed Puritanism, as Prohibition came into effect in 1920 and wasn’t rescinded until 1933). Once in Paris, as we know from his letters, Calder thought the city a destination for an artist whose ambition was “to arrive,” and where he hoped to exhibit, sell, and gain critical attention for his work.

Fig. 2. A page from Alexander Calder’s Scrapbook, 1926–32 (detail). Chinese ledger notebook containing newspaper clippings, 11 x 17 in. (27.9 x 43.2 cm). Alexander Calder papers, 1926–1967, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Calder had the encouragement of his parents, and his mother sent him seventyfive dollars each month. Living was cheap, given an exchange rate highly favorable to dollars, if not always easy. Calder initially stayed in a hotel in Montparnasse— finding his first home and studio a month later. Since arriving in July he had begun to explore the café life on the boulevards, especially at the Café du Dôme, where many artists and writers passed their time. He met others at the famous art school L’Académie de la Grande Chaumière, where he drew from the live model. Later, through his Circus performances as well as in artists’ studios and cafés, Calder met colleagues who would become icons of twentieth-century art as well as life-long friends, including Piet Mondrian, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, and Marcel Duchamp. The academic drawings in Calder’s first sketchbook stand in stark contrast to the radical qualities of the threedimensional “drawing in space” he began to make in Paris. Wire toys for his own amusement, life-like wood sculptures and wire animals, and figures and mechanisms for his miniature Circus were all in progress by Fall 1926. By then he had already begun to study French, with a “grand old lady,” Calder wrote, “who taught Mark Twain forty years ago” and had also coached Whistler.6 Throughout his career, Calder was responsive to images and events around him. One of his first wire sculptures was of Josephine Baker, recalling the celebrities he had drawn earlier for the Police Gazette. Baker’s public reception was tremendous and her image was ubiquitous in Paris. She had become an overnight success upon her 1925 debut in La Revue Nègre at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées and was celebrated for her lithe body, minimal costumes, and fast-paced Charleston, as well as for the unbridled sexuality and artificial exoticism of a French-invented “African” danse sauvage duet, which differed

from the revue’s other vaudeville and jazz numbers. Though many black American performers had received acclaim in Paris, Baker’s celebrity marked the “Jazz Age,” attracting attention not only there, but internationally. The response of the French press was complex and contradictory, but as historian Tyler Stovall explained, “These stereotypes were overwhelmingly positive. However demeaning they may seem from present-day perspectives, in the 1920s most black Americans in Paris welcomed and praised the racial attitudes of their French hosts. The French seemed to regard blackness as something of value, an attitude noticeably absent in the United States.”7 Baker appeared in kiosk posters and magazine photographs; dresses and a hair cream, Bakerfix, were marketed in her name; and dolls in her likeness were sold. Man Ray, Henri Laurens, Pablo Picasso, Kees van Dongen, and Tsuguharu Foujita paid her homage, and Calder depicted her in at least five wire sculptures. Calder’s first Josephine Baker sculpture is similar in scale to the dolls and toys he had made earlier and is static on its wood base. The others are ceiling-suspended. Three of the larger Baker sculptures also emphasize spiraling breasts and belly, while the fourth and latest in date, Aztec Josephine Baker (c. 1929; Calder Foundation, New York), presents a further geometrically abstracted form: breasts, arms, and a single wire that defines the torso and legs are suspended from a single “shoulder” wire. Body parts move independently of one other as they are animated by air currents, just as the elements of his later mobiles would. The other of his first two wire sculptures, Struttin’ His Stuff (1926), Calder referred to as “a boxing Negro in a top hat.”8 His inspiration might have been celebrity boxer and champion Alfonso Teofilo Brown, known as “Panama” Al Brown, a native of Panama

Fig. 3. Tight Rope Artists from Calder’s Circus, 1926–31. Wire, cloth, paper, leather, lead, graphite, and thread, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 83.36.48 and 83.36.50

who emigrated first to the United States and then to France, and was a grand success in Paris. Like Baker, Brown became renowned for his fast-paced moves, enormous sums earned, and a fondness for nightlife and fancy dress. Calder himself was touched by the celebrity culture of the 1920s, which was disseminated through advertising, gossip columns, and the wire services that circulated news and photos internationally. A full-page article in Les Échos des Industries d’Art showed the variety of works Calder had made during his first year in Paris—toys, circus performers, animal sculptures, and the figurative wire sculptures Josephine Baker and Struttin’ His Stuff—and its text emphasized the artist’s talent for caricature (fig. 2). This article, annotated in Calder’s hand, was kept with many others in different languages, some gathered by professional clipping services, in Calder’s scrapbook of his “Paris Years.”

CAlder’S CIrCuS
Over a period of five years in Paris, Calder created and performed one of his most important and beloved works, his miniature circus—titled in French Cirque Calder and in English Calder’s Circus (1926–31) (figs. 3 and 4). His numerous visits to circuses, including the boisterous three rings of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey in New York and the quieter spectacle of the one-ring Médrano circus in Paris inspired the aerial play of circus figures. These were made of the most ordinary materials—wire and string, bits of metal, and cloth. For as long as there have been circuses, artists have taken as subjects their performers and their dazzling, often suspenseful, acts. Georges Seurat, Edgar Degas, and Picasso, among others, depicted circuses in Europe; Edward Hopper, George Luks, and John Sloan, did so in the United States. Though Calder had previously painted and drawn the circus, his miniature Circus was something far different: he performed it. Serving as narrator and puppeteer in this early example of performance art, Calder presented his Circus act-by-act in a precise order. The ringmaster (the mainly wire-and-cloth Mr. Loyal) opened the show by welcoming the audience and blowing his whistle. Calder’s version of the contemporary circus’s Roman chariot race served as its finale. Calder’s audience sat on a low bed or on crates, munching peanuts while Calder manipulated his characters with strings and wires so that trapezists flew through the air, cowboys lassoed horses, and acrobats catapulted across space. His hand-cranked mechanisms allowed horses and their riders to circle the ring and a belly dancer to gyrate in life-like ways. Aerialists, clowns, a knife thrower, a sword swallower, and others were all set into motion. The realism of Calder’s Circus ranged from the life-death

One could say that Calder’s mobile works began with a small brass rocking duck he made at the age of eleven. He also made armor and weapons, covering an old pair of his mother’s gloves in tin scales for his knight’s costume, and fashioned jewelry for his sister’s dolls from beads and found bits of copper wire. The toys Calder made in Paris some twenty years later, including animated horses and rolling carts, were for his own amusement. His toy designs were also a means to become self-supporting. When he began to be paid fifty dollars a month from the Gould Toy Company of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for a series of colorful, wooden “Action Toys,” he ceased receiving the monthly stipend from his mother.
Fig. 4. Agnès Varda (b. 1928), Le pied de Calder et le lion de son Cirque, 1953. Modern print from the original negative. Agnès Varda Archives © Agnès Varda

suspense of his trapezist attempting a mid-air “catch” (which sometimes failed) to the mundane act of him sweeping with a tiny shovel the droppings (in the form of chestnuts) his menagerie had left behind in the ring. Throughout his “Paris Years” Calder supported himself in a variety of ways: through the sale of his work, illustration projects, his contract with Gould Manufacturing, and occasional help from home. At times Calder used the Circus to supplement his income. In Paris in 1930, he performed it for four nights running, earning one hundred dollars from friends to pay his rent. He brought his Circus with him when he traveled in Europe and on his regular trips to the United States. After he and Louisa James, whom he had met on one of his transatlantic crossings, were married in 1931; her income helped the couple maintain financial stability, but they continued to live modestly. Many friends and colleagues, including other artists, photographed Calder with his Circus, among them Brassaï and André Kertész. Several films of Calder performing it were also made, including Le Grand Cirque Calder 1927 by Jean Painlevé, perhaps the only filmmaker to have seen Calder perform his Circus during the “Paris Years” and also film it. (The year 1927 of the film’s title reflects the first full year in which Calder performed the Circus.) Painlevé’s film was completed in 1955, almost three decades after he first saw the Circus performed, and makes its New York–museum debut in this exhibition. Calder’s Circus was put on extended loan to the Whitney by the artist in 1970; in 1983, the Museum purchased the work as a result of an extraordinary grassroots fundraising project by more than 500 corporations, foundations, and individuals. In keeping with long-standing tradition, the circus (and especially its clowns) continues to fascinate artists; Bruce Nauman, Ugo Rondinone, Cindy

Sherman, Roni Horn, Paul McCarthy, and Pierrick Sorin are among those who have incorporated circus themes in their work. Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s Circo de Puglas Cordoso (Cardoso Flea Circus) (1994–2000), like Calder’s Circus, features a fabric tent as well as mechanisms to assist its tiny players in performance. In contrast to Calder’s small-scale Circus, Cardoso’s is a micro-miniature spectacle, designed for, performed by, and captured in a video of the fleas of its title.

Calder’s sculptural bestiary is related to the hundreds of toys he made from broomstick handles, bits of wire, and other ordinary materials just prior to leaving for Paris. He also made a wire sundial in the form of a rooster (whereabouts unknown), a utilitarian invention Calder recognized as his first wire animal creation. Before leaving for Paris, Calder made watercolors and hundreds of pen-and-ink drawings of animals. As his sister Margaret wrote about his methods, “[Calder] rigged up a little device that held bottles of India ink in a row. With this hung around his neck, he spent days at the zoo, capturing in a flowing line the languid cats, the bustling bantams, the grimacing baboons.”9 Calder would make a variety of animal sculptures, including cows, birds, and elephants, throughout his “Paris Years.” He worked them in a variety of media: scrap material, sheet metal, wood, wire. His early animal sketches captured movement and character and profoundly influenced his animal sculptures as well as his illustrations for an edition of Aesop’s fables, published by Harrison of Paris in 1931.
Fig. 6. The Arrival of the Bremen or The Spirit of St. Louis, c. 1928. Wire, 17 x 24 x 4 in. (43.2 x 61 x 10.2 cm). Private collection; courtesy Guggenheim, Asher Associates

Fig. 5. Varèse, 1931. Wire, 13 3/4 x 11 5/8 x 14 1/2 in. (34.9 x 29.5 x 36.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary gift of Mrs. Louise Varèse in honor of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 80.25

Fig. 7. Romulus and Remus, 1928. Wire and wood, 30 1/2 x 124 1/2 x 26 in. (77.5 x 316.2 x 66 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

CArICAtureS ANd PortrAItS
In addition to the sculptures Josephine Baker and Struttin’ His Stuff, Calder made small wire figures of other celebrities, including tennis champion Helen Wills and industrialist John D. Rockefeller, who is depicted as a golfer. He also made caricatures of a spectrum of society types, such as The Hostess (1928; The Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Le Policeman (Bobby) (c. 1930; Collection of Joyce Klein), and he made open-form wire portraits, more than twenty of which are included in the exhibition. Until 1928, these portraits are of people he knew in New York: many are those associated with the Weyhe Gallery, where he had his first solo show in 1928. By the following year, fully integrated in the Parisian art scene, Calder began to make portraits of friends and colleagues there too. Among them are artists Léger, Miró, and Amédée Ozenfant, composer Edgard Varèse (fig. 5), and painter, model, muse, and paramour of many artists, Alice Prin, better known as Kiki de Montparnasse, who wrote of the

artist: “Mr. Calder, an ingenious Yankee, is in a class by himself. Instead of squirting tubes of paint on canvas or mutilating marble, he twists pieces of iron wire— with consummate skill—into a likeness of his model.”10

ABStrACted FIgureS
Calder soon began to abstract and enlarge the figures for his wire sculptures. The Arrival of the Bremen or The Spirit of St. Louis (fig. 6), a wire sculpture of a reclining nude grabbing a plane from the sky to her ample breasts, marks both the recordsetting 1927 transatlantic solo flight of Charles Lindbergh (Calder was at Le Bourget airport in Paris when the Spirit of St. Louis landed) and the first successful transatlantic crossing from East to West by the Bremen in 1928. Calder’s ambitions for his wire sculptures took him to new mythological subjects and what was, by comparison to his previous works, an extremely large size. Romulus and Remus (fig. 7), a 10-foot-long she-wolf, has teats made

of doorstops, while Spring (Printemps) (1928) is an almost 8-foot-tall sculpture of a woman holding a flower. After exhibiting these two in New York, where they did not sell, Calder brought them to Paris where they were again exhibited, again gained critical recognition, and again did not sell. He folded them into a bundle not to be discovered and undone until preparations for his 1964 retrospective at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which subsequently acquired the two sculptures.

The “shock,” as Calder referred to it, that turned him towards abstraction and triggered ideas for employing movement in abstract sculptural forms, was a visit to Mondrian’s studio.11 Calder went to 26, rue de Départ in October 1930 with a friend, the abstract painter William “Binks” Einstein. He was impressed by the entirety of the studio (“It was a very exciting room.”) as much as by the paintings he saw there. Tacked to the wall were “colored rect-

angles of cardboard”; Calder suggested to Mondrian “that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate.” He wrote of Mondrian’s response: “He, with a very serious countenance, said: ‘No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.’” Calder, who was known for his figurative works, turned quickly to modernist abstraction after the stunning visit to Mondrian’s studio. “Though I had heard the word ‘modern’ before, I did not consciously know or feel the term ‘abstract,’” he recalled. “So now, at thirty-two, I wanted to paint and work in the abstract. And for two weeks or so, I painted very modest abstractions. At the end of this, I reverted to plastic work which was still abstract.”12 One of Calder’s abstract sculptures, Sphérique (1931; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), is situated on a painted base that recalls the blackand-white geometries of Mondrian’s paintings (Ever practical, Calder cut such wood bases for his sculptures from the same planks he had used, set on crates, as seating for his Circus). Some of Calder’s

earliest abstract sculptures were based on orbiting planets; Two Spheres within a Sphere (1931; Calder Foundation, New York), the first that moved, was turned by a small wire crank located at one corner of its wood base. Others, such as Pantograph (1931; Moderna Museet, Stockholm) and Half-circle, Quarter-circle, and Sphere (fig. 8) were set in motion by motors. It was Duchamp who applied the word “mobile” to all of Calder’s works that moved, whether by crank, motor, or air currents; Jean Arp termed the stationary works, by contrast, “stabiles.” Calder’s abstract sculptures were well received by his contemporaries and he became part of the international artists group Abstraction-Création, whose membership included Mondrian, Arp, and Jean Hélion.

BAlANCe, FlIght, ANd the BIrth oF the moBIle
Though the idea of movement had been explored pictorially by the Futurists and famously painted by Duchamp in his Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) (1912; Philadelphia Museum of Art), and the concept of incorporating movement in artworks had been investigated by the Russian Constructivists, it would be Calder who consistently integrated physical movement into his sculpture, creating a new “category” of art, the “mobile.” Within a year of completing his Circus in 1931, Calder explored balance, flight, and movement in new ways in drawings and sculptures. In a 1931–33 series of drawings, organic forms appear weightless, suspended in space. Calder’s earliest documented ceiling-suspended mobile, Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere (1932– 33; Calder Foundation, New York), is a percussive instrument that when “played” creates sounds resonant of the compositions of his friend Varèse, who liked to sit in Calder’s studio while he worked. As

it is set into motion, one of the spheres crashes into objects dispersed in a circle on the floor—wine bottles, a wood crate, a tin can, and a gong. In Machine Motorisée (1933; Calder Foundation, New York), two wood forms appear to “dance” in duet, the larger abstract figure animated by a motor secreted within its base. Calder also explored balance and changing form with a length of driftwoodlike painted wood, poised to balance at the tip of its base, called Requin et Baleine (c. 1933; Centre Pompidou, Paris). And in Cône d’ébène (fig. 9) we see not only the elements of Calder’s majestic, isolated, and fully suspended airborne mobiles, but also the intuitive template for those works that would follow in the next four decades—temporal, performative, always in flux, a language of form that would be definitively and singularly his. With this space-defining yet always changing work—its suspended geometric forms as well as a biomorophic abstraction of a bird’s head—Calder had “arrived,” defining his own universe, and in so doing inventing a new kind of sculpture. Calder and Louisa decided to return to the United States in 1933. The move was prompted by the rise of Fascism in Europe as well as personal reasons, for Louisa had suffered a miscarriage. They purchased a farm in Roxbury, Connecticut, and within a year Calder exhibited in a group show at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The museum acquired two of the motorized works, the first Calder works to enter an American museum collection.

The Calders returned to Europe in 1937 for an extended stay. While in Paris, Calder created a work for the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair. His Mercury Fountain, which was exhibited in a courtyard with Picasso’s

Fig. 8. Half-circle, Quarter-circle, and Sphere, 1932. Metal rod, wire, and painted metal on painted wood base with motor, 76 5/8 x 35 1/2 x 25 in. (194.6 x 90.2 x 63.5 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc. 69.258

Guernica, was a gesture of solidarity with artists opposed to the nationalist forces of Francisco Franco. Calder’s fountain flowed with mercury from the mines of Almadèn and contained a wire element with the city’s name flagged at is top. Both the name of the town and the mercury were symbols of anti-Franco resistance: Almadèn, the site of one of the world’s largest deposits of mercury, was the location of a bloody battle between the republican resistance and Franco’s troops, who laid siege in an

attempt to obtain control of the town’s valuable assets. Calder exhibited again in Paris just after the war, in 1946, and again in 1953, when the family took a year-long sojourn in France. That year the Calders acquired a home in Saché, near Tours, and he and Louisa divided their time between France and the United States for the rest of their lives. The home with its studio is now the site of a residency program for contemporary artists.

Joan Simon curator-at-large Whitney Museum of American Art

1. Margaret Calder Hayes, Three Alexander Calders: A Family Memoir (Middlebury, VT: Paul S. Eriksson, 1977), 115. 2. Alexander Calder and Jean Davidson, An Autobiography with Pictures (New York: Pantheon Books, 1966), 51. 3. Alexander S.C. Rower, “Chronology,” Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926–1933, exh. cat. (New York and Paris: Whitney Museum of American Art and Centre Pompidou, 2008), 267–68. 4. Alexander Calder, letter to Jules Pascin, January-February 1929. Archives, Calder Foundation, New York. 5. Calder, Autobiography, 76. 6. Alexander Calder, letter to his parents, November 12, 1926. Archives, Calder Foundation, New York. 7. Tyler Stovall, Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), 72. 8. Calder, Autobiography, 80. 9. Hayes, Three Alexander Calders, 78. 10. Alice Prin, “By ‘Kiki’—Queen of the Paris Artists’ Studios.” Undated clipping from unknown publication, Alexander Calder Scrapbook, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 11. Calder, An Autobiography with Pictures, 113. 12. Ibid.

Photo credits: fig. 1: photograph by Jerry L. Thompson; figs. 3 and 5: photograph by Sheldan C. Collins © Whitney Museum of American Art; fig. 7: photograph by David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York; fig 8: photograph by Jerry L. Thompson © Whitney Museum of American Art. Alexander Calder, Calder’s Circus, 1926–31. Mixed media, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from a public fundraising campaign in May 1982. One half the funds were contributed by the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Charitable Trust. Additional major donations were given by The Lauder Foundation; the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc.; the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation, Inc.; an anonymous donor; The T.M. Evans Foundation, Inc.; MacAndrews & Forbes Group, Incorporated; the DeWitt Wallace Fund, Inc.; Martin and Agneta Gruss; Anne Phillips; Mr. and Mrs. Laurance S. Rockefeller; the Simon Foundation, Inc.; Marylou Whitney; Bankers Trust Company; Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth N. Dayton; Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz; Irvin and Kenneth Feld; Flora Whitney Miller. More than five hundred individuals from twenty-six states and abroad also contributed to the campaign. 83.36.1–95 All works by Alexander Calder are © 2008 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Fig. 9. Cône d’ébène, 1933. Wood, rod, wire, and paint, 106 x 55 x 24 in. (269.2 x 139.7 x 61 cm). Calder Foundation, New York

© Whitney Museum of American Art 2008

oBjeCtIve SuSPeNSe: CoNCeIved ANd PerFormed By ColIN gee
A Whitney Live Commission Between October 2008 and February 2009 Colin Gee will appear and perform unannounced in the Calder’s Circus gallery. In conjunction with Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926–1933, theater artist Colin Gee creates intimate performance experiences inspired by Calder’s innovative ideas of movement and love of the space of the circus. With Calder’s Circus nearby, Gee engages exhibition visitors one or two at a time, using eye contact, rhythm, play, and stillness. Though no one but the artist could animate Calder’s Circus—an early example of performance art—Gee’s surprise interventions, using ordinary materials of his own devising, charge the atmosphere of the gallery with parallel senses of suspense and animation.

WhItNeykIdS At the CIrCuS NINth ANNuAl Free FAmIly dAy
Saturday, October 25 10 am–2 pm Kids and families are invited to discover Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 19261933. March in a circus parade with the Hungry March Band. Chat with artist Corin Hewitt as he works on a constantly evolving installation in the Lobby Gallery. Marvel as Colin Gee, former Cirque du Soleil principal clown, performs “Objective Suspense.” Draw on paper and in space. And mingle with Big Apple Circus performers.

oPeN StudIo: CoNServINg CAlder
Thursday, October 30 at 7 pm Calder’s Circus (1926–31) is one of the Whitney’s most beloved artworks and a seminal piece in Alexander Calder’s oeuvre. Eleonora Nagy, a conservator specializing in modern and contemporary sculpture who is working with the Circus, speaks about her techniques and approach to conserving the work.
This exhibition was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

oPeN StudIo: lINe tAkeS FlIght
Friday, November 14 at 3 pm Thursday, January 8 at 2 pm Friday, January 30 at 3 pm Hear Colin Gee explain his process, method, and performance technique.

Sponsored by

The exhibition and catalogue are made possible through a generous grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional support is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen, Faith and Philip Geier, The Florence Gould Foundation, The Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation, The Lipman Family Foundation, Julie and William Obering, Dathel and Tommy Coleman, and The Philip A. and Lynn Straus Foundation. Opening events are sponsored by

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