Exhibitions: Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture

By Gayford, Martin | The Spectator, November 14, 2015 | Go to article overview

Exhibitions: Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture


Gayford, Martin, The Spectator


Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture

Tate Modern, until 3 April 2016

One day, in October 1930, Alexander Calder visited the great abstract painter Piet Mondrian in his apartment in Paris. The Dutch artist had turned this small space on rue du Départ, which also doubled as his studio, into a walk-in work of art. Even his gramophone, painted bright red, had become a note of pure form and colour.

Calder was impressed by the squares and oblongs of the pictures all around. But he also asked a question: wouldn't it be fun to make these rectangles move? With a perfectly straight face Mondrian replied that this wasn't necessary: 'My paintings are already very fast.'

As I walked around Performing Sculpture , the new Calder exhibition at Tate Modern, I mused on which of them had got the better of this exchange. In a free-association test, any art buff prompted with the word 'Calder' would immediately respond 'mobile'. This is because his distinctive contribution to modernism was to make abstract sculpture move.

Naturally, the galleries at Tate Modern are full of Calder's mobiles: suspended from the ceiling, rising on filigree arrangements like inverted coathangers from the floor. Quite often, if not quite always, they are indeed in motion, gently revolving on currents of air from vents in the floor or the mild jetstream caused by critics walking past, notebooks in hands. It does not take much to make the mobiles stir, but visitors are strictly warned against doing so by touching them -- or even blowing in their direction.

Worries about conservation have immobilised quite a few of the pieces in this exhibition. There are early sculptures equipped with home-made-looking mechanisms or hand-operated handles. Sadly, these amusing toys have grown too fragile, valuable and art-historically important to flap or wave as their creator intended.

Others have been silenced. Intriguingly, Calder considered that sound was an important aspect of sculpture. He collaborated with composers and choreographers. Some of his works were intended to chime or collide randomly with objects. Again, however, these have become too precious to make a noise.

Calder's aerial sculptures are unquestionably beautiful: delicately balanced arrangements of forms like fluttering leaves, subatomic particles or celestial bodies, suspended from the lightest possible cat's cradle of wire. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Exhibitions: Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.