Archive for the ‘kinetic art’ Category

wystawa prac Caldera w Whitney Museum w NY

In kinetic art, prehistoria, Uncategorized, wystawy on 16 grudnia 2008 at 9:49 pm

Calder at Play: Finding Whimsy in Simple Wire

by Holland Cotter, NY Times

Is art basically glorified child’s play, extending into adulthood, through a lifetime, picking up ideas and gaining finesse as it goes? That’s one way to think of “Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933” at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Few exhibitions have focused so intently on one artist’s child within. It’s a Peter Pan syndrome show.

It’s also a large show, with a chunky, charming catalog. Yet it feels intimate and light, not to say lightweight. Gallery by gallery, it’s as suspenseful and insubstantial as a magic act: what will the artist pull from his sleeve next? The story it tells is like a Kids R Us version of early 20th-century Modernism, with a grown-up surprise at the end.

Calder didn’t start out with ambitions to be an artist; if anything, he was pulled in the opposite direction. He watched his father, a professional sculptor, fret over commissions and struggle with money. So when it came time for college the young Calder chose an engineering school in New Jersey over art school.

But of course he was an artist, a natural. He may just not have known at first what that meant. Even as a child he was astonishingly inventive. The tiny figure of a rocking-horse-style bird shaped from brass sheeting is, for economy of form and conceptual daring, one of the more radical works in the show. He made it when he was 11.

He made stuff all the time. He was one of those people with nonstop eyes and hands: every scrap of stray matter was a candidate for transformation. Give him some wire, clothespins and a scrap of cloth and, presto chango, you had a bird or a cow or a circus clown: nothing, then something, which is what magic is.

There’s a hyperactive pace to his early career. While working at engineering jobs after college, he was also drawing like crazy and designing toys. In 1923 he enrolled at the Art Students League to study painting; John Sloan and George Luks were his teachers. At the same time he took on illustrating gigs for publications like The New Yorker and The National Police Gazette.

His academic drawings from the time are gauche and ordinary. The staying-still-in-a-studio they required obviously cramped his style. Much fresher is the dashed-off, manic-looking magazine work. And his Ash Can School-type paintings of New York scenes — a drunken party; a trip to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus — have a gawky spark of life. Then there are his pen-and-ink drawings of zoo animals. They’re in a different category, almost by a different artist, one more relaxed and assured. Often done as one continuous line, they are like an effortlessly sophisticated form of penmanship. So are some of the openwork sculptures of bent and twisted wire that he began to experiment with at this time.

In 1926, with all these balls in the air, he suddenly moved to Paris, because motion for him was a stimulant and because he felt that Paris was the hot place to be, which it was. With its crowded cafes, charged thinking, endless talking and jumpy personalities, the city was hyperkinetic. Calder fell in love with it. And, although he continued to return to New York for long stretches, he made Paris his home base for seven years.

His wire sculpture took off there. Several examples in the form of portrait heads are the first thing you see when you step off the elevator on the Whitney’s fourth floor. They’re an arresting sight, in a gently wow-inspiring way. Wows were what Calder was after, along with chuckles and satisfied ahs. He was a showman, a performer. “See what I can do, right before your eyes, without even trying?” his art seems to say.

For his purposes industrial steel wire was an ideal medium. It was cheap, malleable, portable and equally adaptable to precision work and doodling, which to him were almost the same thing. Wire was like three-dimensional ink; it was a means of combining drawing and sculpture in space.

In the Paris years he used it for portraiture. His first subject was a star he admired from afar, Josephine Baker. She was the toast of the town in the 1920s. One look at film clips of her dancing a semi-nude Charleston tells you why. Calder made five small Baker figures; four are in the show. With their tiny heads, spiraling breasts and long, long single-strand legs, they catch something of the image Baker wanted to project: that of an ethnographic specimen come to irrepressibly self-amused life.

He made other figures too, of the tennis champion Helen Wills, of John D. Rockefeller playing golf. They are the work of a pop illustrator, clever but nothing special. But for people he actually knew, portrait heads were the form of choice. Of the 18 examples in the show, most depict people Calder had met in avant-garde circles in Paris, including celebrity friends like Edgard Varèse, Joan Miró and Alice Prin, the multitasking muse better known as Kiki de Montparnasse. You can see why Calder did these likenesses: they were an attention-getting novelty; they advertised his skill; they gave him a pretext to network.

They also look as if they were fun to make. One of the attractive features of Calder’s art from this period is its gee-I-could-do-that unpretentiousness. At the same time each is a fabulous little virtuosic feat, abstract but exacting. Set on bases or freely suspended, and casting subtle shadows — Jennifer Tipton, the theatrical lightning designer, was in charge of illumination — the portraits have the wit and refinement that will show up again in Calder’s first abstract sculptures.Refinement is not a quality associated with the famously funky tabletop assemblage known as Calder’s Circus. A prime draw of the Whitney’s permanent collection, it has rarely been off view since the museum acquired it 25 years ago. But it gets a rethinking here.Up to now it has been exhibited as a compact, one-ring affair with its many tiny handmade figures — clowns, acrobats, animal trainers and so on — doing all the varied things they do at once. The show’s curators, Joan Simon of the Whitney and Brigitte Leal of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, have separated the components into individual acts meant to be seen as taking place sequentially, a format that corresponds to the way Calder himself presented the work in live performances.

You can see him giving one in a 1955 film by Jean Painlevé, which is in the show. Calder introduces the figures silently one by one, manipulating them and activating the low-tech mechanisms (cranks, pull-strings, air hoses) that animate their activities. If, like me, you’ve always found Calder’s Circus a little too cute for comfort, the film may change your mind.

When at one point Calder slowly and carefully removes layer after layer of hand-sewn costumes from one clown figure until he arrives at what looks like a skeleton, it’s hard to known whether you’re seeing a circus or a medieval morality play. No wonder the original Paris performances pulled in the savvy audiences they did. Jean Cocteau,Marcel Duchamp and Piet Mondrianwere among the many vanguard types who sat on crates and watched with rapt attention.

The Whitney show’s real shock comes a bit later, though, in the last three galleries, when Calder the polymath entertainer becomes Calder the Modern sculptor. The shift happened almost literally overnight. In October 1930 he visited Mondrian’s Paris studio; instantly he became an abstract artist. And for some people Calder starts to become interesting only at this point. No more Kikis and tennis players. Now everything is floating circles and curving lines anchored by balls in space.

But two things stayed constant: motion and play. For conservation reasons only one sculpture in the Whitney show is now motorized as intended; others can be seen in action on film. And action is the essence in a piece like “Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere” (1932-33), which consists of two suspended wooden balls and, set out on the gallery floor, a wooden box, four wine bottles, a can and a gong.

Nothing much, right? Until — as seen on film — the balls, attached to a motorized bar, start to move in a slow circle, hitting a bottle, then the can, then the gong. Music! (Varèse loved this piece.) Yet move a bottle an inch or two this way or that and the performance changes. Turn on a fan or open a window and you could create a new score. The game Calder is playing is a finely tuned, verging on magical, game of chance. And it really is a game. And it really is play.

Alexander Calder, 1898 – 1976

In kinetic art on 21 października 2008 at 11:55 pm

Dzisiejszy wpis chciałabym poświęcić jednemu z moich ulubionych artystów. Ostrzegam! Jest to materiał tylko dla ludzi o naprawdę stalowych nerwach – Desperadoł are ju redy?:) Alexander Calder – życie i twórczość.

Na zdjęciu Calder i I. Duncan

Calder zaczął od malarstwa abstrakcyjnego, jego twórczość ewoluowała poprzez rzeźbę przedstawiającą, ku rzeźbie abstrakcyjnej. Nie chcę się rozpisywać o biografii artysty, jednak warto wspomnieć, że znany jest przede wszystkim, jako twórca dwóch nowych nurtów w sztuce współczesnej. W pewnym momencie zaczął go interesować ruch oraz możliwość jego zastosowania w rzeźbie. Na fali tych zainteresowań zaczęły powstawać jego pierwsze prace, w których bardzo ważny był nie tylko ich aspekt rzeźbiarski, konstrukcyjny, ale również ruch. Duchamp zapytany przez Caldera o to, jak ten powinien określać swoje prace, odpowiedział – mobile (najprostsza ich definicja mówi, że nie mają żadnego istnienia poza ruchem, nie mają żadnego znaczenia, nie odsyłają do niczego poza sobą). Później artysta zaczął tworzyć gigantyczne rzeźby wystawiane w plenerze, jego zainteresowanie przeniosło się z problematyki ruchu na problematykę bryły. J. Arp zapytany przez Caldera o to, jak z kolei powinno określać się ten rodzaj jego prac, odpowiedział, że stabile. Tak powstały dwa nowe nurty w sztuce, proste, bułka z masłem. Zainteresowanych biografią Caldera odsyłam na przykład do strony Calder Foundation- – na której znajduje się wiele ciekawych informacji. Chciałabym zwrócić uwagę, tylko na jeden z aspektów jego twórczości.

Przygodę z Calderem należy zacząć od filmu Cyrk Alexandra Caldera (tutaj 2-częsciowa wersja jutiubowa), 19 minutowej miniaturki nakręconej przez Carlosa Vilardebó. Nie jest to być może twórczość najbardziej charakterystyczna dla Caldera, ale z pewnością urocza i warta tego, aby o niej pamiętać.

W połowie lat dwudziestych Calder zainteresował się cyrkiem ( tworzy rysunki dotyczące cyrku do nowojorskich gazet), około 1927 roku powstaje jego miniaturowy cyrk, któremu poświęcony jest ten film. Niezliczona ilość miniaturowych postaci drewnianych i drucianych (oraz kilka wyglądających na zrobione ze starej skarpetki – porównaj lew), dziesiątko metrów sznurka oraz niezliczona ilość gałganków, mikro-sprężynek, pokręteł, korbek, dźwigni, wyrzutni… i innych zadecydowała o popularności przedstawienia, jednak tym, co przede wszystkim przyciągało publiczność na każdy z pokazów, była niesamowita, ciepła i pełna charyzmy postać Caldera, który nie tylko poruszał postaciami, ale dzięki niezwykłej osobowości był spiritus movens przedstawienie. To, na co warto zwrócić uwagę, to język, jakim się posługuje, ni to angielski, ni to francuski. Aby zobaczyć występ cyrku w małym studiu Caldera raz po raz zbierała się śmietanka paryskiej awangardy, między innymi Miro i Mondrian. Każdy z pokazów trwał około dwóch godzin i składał się z dwudziestu lub więcej odsłon. Calder w roli mistrza areny i jego żona siedząca przy gramofonie, aby zmieniać podkład muzyczny kolejnych numerów cyrkowych.

Przez wiele lat cyrk urósł do gigantycznych rozmiarów, jednak podróżował z artystą pomiędzy Paryżem a Nowym Yorkiem, obecnie znajduje się w kolekcji Whitney Museum of Modern Art.

Oto kilka ciekawych linków. Przede wszystkim adres strony, na której film znajduje się w całości (niezawodne ):;

jak również adres strony, na której znajdziecie wywiad przeprowadzony przez Charliego Rose’a, między innymi z wnukiem Caldera z okazji wielkiej retrospektywy jego prac w Waszyngtonie:; film The Alexander Calder Mobile – East Wing of the National Gallery of Art będący dokumentacja z wystawy:

Polecam! Cyrk ukradnie Wam serce!