Monday, June 18, 2012

Spotlight on Alexander Calder

How about a spotlight on an artist with a slightly different take on art? Let's take a look at Alexander Calder and his claim to fame; his sculptures and mobiles. He was born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1898 to artistic parents; his father was a sculptor and mother a painter. With parents like that, it is no wonder that young Calder ended up falling into the art world himself. And that he did from a young age. From the age of eight, he was always provided with a workshop in the family home. He rewarded this encouragement by presenting his parents with his first sculpture in 1909. A 3-D brass dog and duck was their Christmas present that year.

Despite his early interest in art, Calder originally decided to go into engineering. He studied Mechanical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology and spent the next few years dabbling in various jobs related to the field. It wasn't until 1923 that he decided to return to the world of art. He moved to New York and enrolled in the Arts Student League. In 1926, he took his interest in art a step further and moved to Paris, where he enrolled in the Académie de la Grand Chaumière. It was there that he began to further develop his skills and tinker with kinetic art. One of his earliest experiments with kinetic art was in his creation of his Cirque Calder (inspired from a two-week stint spent researching the Ringling Brother Circus for the National Police Gazette in 1925), which he designed and performed for people throughout France and the US, as seen here.

Lobster Trap & Fish Tail - 1939
While Paris was good to Calder, introducing him to the likes of Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Arp, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian and his future wife, Louisa James, he decided to return to the United States in 1933. He brought back with him his "mobiles" and continued to show them, but he also began to experiment with larger outdoor sculptures. While they would eventually turn into more significant pieces, these first sculptures were nicknamed "stabiles", to differentiate them from the mobiles that could gently twist in a puff of air. 

Man - 1967
As Calder's artwork got bigger, so too did his scope of work. He designed jewellery, toys, tapestries, made drawings, paintings and eventually was commissioned to create several public sculptures around the world (like "Man", that was commissioned for Expo in Montreal, QC, 1967). His pieces were often a monotone of colour (mostly black, but with occasional reds and other primary colours) and certainly abstract in nature, but by the time he died in 1976, they were sought after the world over. The Whitney Museum has one of his largest collections of works, but MOMA in New York, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and of course the Calder Foundation all have permanent exhibits from this master artist.

While Budding Artists cannot boast to have any of his stabiles or mobiles, we are honouring Alexander Calder's life and works this Saturday, June 23, 2012 during the weekly children's art workshop at the London Farmer's Market. Register your kids today and bring the world of kinetic art alive for them in 90 minutes of fun and adventure through the eyes of this master artist. Workshops are held at 10:30am and 1pm, with the cost of materials included in the price. They will thrill at the experience of creating their very own kinetic art and you will too, when you see that spark of creativity come alive. See you Saturday!

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