CALDER Alexander

Alexander Calder was an American sculptor who is best known for his invention of the mobile and his wire sculptures.

Alexander Calder was born on July 22, 1898, in Lawton, Pennsylvania. He was the second child of artist parents; his mother was a painter and his father a sculptor. Throughout his childhood, Alexander traveled across the country with his family, since his father was receiving public commissions. As he kid, he was encouraged to create and develop his imagination.

Alexander’s parents did not want him to become an artist, thus he decided to study mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. It appears that Calder has chosen to study engineering arbitrarily, simply because someone he befriended was going the same path.

After his graduation in 1919, Calder worked at different jobs, but was not particularly enthusiastic about any of those experiences. Although, a few years later, in June 1922, while he was working as a mechanic on a passenger ship, a key even occurred in Alexander’s life which has changed his vision of the world. Indeed, on that day, Calder has witnessed both the sun rising and the moon setting on different horizons upon the calm Guatemalan Coast. This stunning view symbolized the opening of new horizons, and led him embrace an artistic career in New York at the Art Student League.

In 1926, Alexander moved to Paris and joined the Académie de la Grand Chaumière. In France, Calder became friendly with many famous artists and intellectuals, including Joan Miró, Ferrnand Léger, Jean Arp and Marcel Duchamp. In 1930, Alexander visited Piet Mondrian’s studio and was truly impressed by his work. The total abstraction and the compositional experiment of Mondrian’s work has deeply inspired Calder, who realized quickly after his preference for sculptures over paintings.

1931 marks a milestone in Calder’s career. That year is symbolized by the creation of his first kinetic sculpture, which gave birth to a new form of art. Many of these objects were moved by motors and were dubbed “mobiles” by Marcel Duchamp. Soon after, Alexander has abandoned the idea of motored sculptures and aimed at conceiving objects that could undulate on their own.

In 1933, Calder and his wife, Louisa, returned to America and settled in Roxbury, Connecticut. The couple gave birth to two girls; Sandra in 1935 and Mary in 1939. At that time, the Alexander started his association with Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York and held his first exhibition in 1934.

At the end of the decade, Calder leant towards large outdoor sculptures. His first real attempt was a stabile sculpture fashioned entirely from sheet metal, which he entitled Devil Fish

During World War II, the short supply of metal led Calder to use wood as a sculptural medium, which resulted in another form of sculpture, called “constellations” by Sweeny and Duchamp.

The forties and the fifties were a productive period of Alexander who was constantly traveling between France and the United States. During these years, he exhibited, along with other pioneers of Kinetic art including Yaacov Agam and Jean Tinguely at the Galerie Denise René, Paris, in 1955. This period was also marked by Calder’s focus on large scale commissioned works such as: Spirale, for UNESCO, in Paris (1958) or Teodelapio, for the city of Spoleto, Italy (1962).

In the sixties, Calder’s work and artistic talent were renowned worldwide. Several retrospectives took place around the world to pay tribute to his genius.

Calder died unexpectedly on November 11, 1976, of a heart attack, shortly after the opening of a major retrospective show at the Whitney Museum in New York.

Calder has left behind him more than 600 sculptures, including mobiles, stabiles and monumental outdoor works, was well as thousands of oil paintings, lithographs and etches. He is considered to be one of the greatest contemporary artist of all time.