Recently Syndicut ventured to the acclaimed retrospective exhibition of sculpture by Alexander Calder at the Tate Modern. The calming gallery space was an immediate relief from the busy streets outside and the perfect environment to appreciate Calder’s exquisite work.
Each suspended kinetic sculpture interacts with the space it occupies, creating a sense of activity caused by the slow circulation of exhibition-goers. The delicate mobiles sway and rotate gently with the residual energy produced by spectators’ actions. These slight movements seem playful and produce animated patterns in light and shadow on the surrounding walls.
Photo credits: Agnès Varda, Calder with 21 feuilles blanches, 1954 (left), and Alexander Calder, Snow Flurry, 1950 (right) / 2015 Calder Foundation, New York / DACS, London
Calder describes each element of his sculptures as “able to move, to stir, to oscillate, to come and go in its relationships with other elements in the universe” – each piece does not simply occupy its context, but it animates the surrounding environment, defining how the sculptural forms and the architectural space in which they are displayed are understood by the viewer.
Photo credits: Alexander Calder, Form Against Yellow, 1936 (far left), Blue Panel, 1936 (mid-left), White Panel, 1936 (mid-right), and Red Panel, 1936 (far right) / 2015 Calder Foundation, New York / DACS, London
To construct each sculpture Calder used a range of different media, from plywood and sheet metal to tubing, wire, string and assorted found materials. Restricted to a limited palette consisting of black and white with the occasional bright splash of daring red and other primary colours, Calder’s works appear thoughtfully composed and meticulously assembled.
Photo credits: Alexander Calder, Black Widow, 1948, at Tate Modern (left), and at the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil, Sao Paulo (right) / 2015 Calder Foundation, New York / DACS, London
The sculptures do not overwhelm or intimidate the viewer with bold colours or brash statements, instead they win over one’s admiration subtly and create a soothing, tranquil atmosphere. Black Widow, above, is the largest mobile exhibited, it is comprised of wire and painted metal and has hung in the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil for over fifty years – this is the first time is has been shown in the UK.
Alexander Calder masterfully explores form, structure, balance, space and movement, constructing kinetic sculptures that seemingly float in the softly lit gallery space. Calder’s work challenges pre-existing ideas of what sculpture can be, reimagining traditional sculptural properties by bringing dynamism and energy to this art form.