Published: March 6, 2001
Calder’s Monumental Sculpture at the Storm King Art Center
MOUNTAINVILLE, N.Y. – A gathering of 18 monumentally scaled sculptures by Alexander Calder – most of them unseen in public for decades or never before exhibited – will rise from the fields and hillsides of the Storm King Art Center, as the sculpture park and museum presents the exhibition “: Calder’s Monumental Sculpture.”
Opening on May 21, “” is by far the largest exhibition ever assembled of these large-scale, outdoor works, on which Calder concentrated his energies during the last phase of his career. With six more Calder sculptures installed inside the museum building, along with 24 preparatory models and panels of archival photographs, “” is also the first exhibition to tell the story of Calder’s growing fascination with monumental sculpture and to illustrate his creative process in developing these works.
The guest curator of “” is Alexander S.C. Rower, director of the Calder Foundation and a grandson of the artist, who has collaborated on the exhibition with David R. Collens, director and chief curator of the Storm King Art Center. With the exception of “The Arch” (1975), which is in the permanent collection of the Storm King Art Center, all of the sculptures and maquettes exhibited in “” are on loan through the courtesy of the Calder Foundation.
“One of the great moments in the development of our sculpture park and museum was the purchase of Calder’s “The Arch,” noted H. Peter Stern, chairman and president of the center. “We are deeply grateful to the Calder Foundation for enabling us now to present an exhibition that pays homage to one of our greatest sculptors while animating this landscape as never before.”
“`’ is unique in several ways,” said Rower. “It presents roughly twice as many of Calder’s monumental sculptures as have ever been seen before in a single exhibition. About half of these works will be new to the public. All of them have been restored to excellent condition, so you can see them as Calder intended.”
Among the notable early works on view are “Red and Yellow Vane” (1934), the first sculpture Calder made for the outdoors, and “Devil Fish” (1937), the first sculpture that Calder enlarged from a maquette, or smaller model. “Funghi Neri (Black Mushrooms)” (1957) is one of Calder’s first large-scale public works.
Made for an exhibition in Milan on the basis of a maquette from 1942, the work illustrates how the artist had been prepared for years to carry out such large-scale commissions. “Southern Cross” (1963), a monumentally scaled work that Calder installed permanently at his home and studio in Connecticut, has been exhibited in public on only three previous occasions.
Among the monumental works that have never before seen in public are “Discontinuous” (1962), “Untitled” (1972), “Bobine (Bobbin),” “Knobs” (1976) and “Gui (Mistletoe)” (1976).
According to Rower, Calder was ready by 1937 to make large-scale, outdoor sculptures as demonstrated by his exhibition of that year at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York City. A photograph of the gallery installation reveals that Calder showed a large-scale work titled “Big Bird,” together with its maquette and a number of other maquettes. (“Big Bird” and the photograph will be included in “.”) “The idea was, you’d come to the gallery, see `Big Bird,’ then choose one of the little models and have it made three meters high or ten meters high, to install in your garden or in front of your building. But at the time, no one commissioned him.”
Calder got the opportunity to realize these projects only after World War II, Rower says. “After World War II, the International Style became prevalent, and you had great European and American architects building these simplified, dynamic and elegant structures. Everybody wanted to have a sculpture as a counterpoint. So in the 1950s, my grandfather started getting all these commissions for what he had been prepared to do since the 1930s.”
From then until his death in 1976, Calder became more and more fascinated by the possibilities of monumental sculpture. Although these enormous works had to be fabricated by the technicians at ironworks, “Calder never allowed the process to become purely mechanical,” Rower commented. “He always had his hand involved; he was always altering things, whether it was correcting a form or changing a color.”
Rower notes that Calder even instructed the technicians how to strengthen these huge works, so they would bear their weight properly and withstand the elements. “Calder would take out a piece of soapstone chalk he always carried in his pocket and mark the surfaces. He’d balance the form and the shapes, and then he’d mark where the gussets or ribs would be added.”
Maquettes in close proximity to their finished sculptures should inspire an appreciation for how Calder’s creative process remained intuitive even on the grand scale. “We’re familiar with artists who make 12 or 15 sketches of an idea and then make a painting,” said Rower. “I hope people will learn that these maquettes were really sketches for my grandfather.”
In conjunction with “: Calder’s Monumental Sculpture,” the Storm King Art Center will publish a brochure on the exhibition during 2001. A major catalogue on Calder’s monumental sculpture, as seen in the exhibition, is scheduled for publication in 2002.
The Art Center is open daily from 11 am to 5:30 pm April 1 through October 27, and from 11 am to 5 pm from October 28 to November 15. For information, 845/534-3115.
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