Until 20 October, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art is presenting Calder, a grand retrospective of works by Alexander Calder (1898–1976), the American artist who transformed the history of art with his use of unconventional materials and his dramatic re-imagining of space. Co-organized by Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art and the Calder Foundation in New York, this exhibition showcases over 100 works by the artist, spanning from the 1920s through the 1970s. Calder’s invention of the mobile liberated sculpture from the pedestal and challenged the idea that the element of mass was one of its necessary constituents, and his relentless innovation and strong creative vision extended beyond the lines of an established genre in art.
Calder grew up in a family of artists; his father and grandfather were both successful sculptors and his mother was a painter. Despite his artistic talent, Calder studied and worked in mechanical engineering before ultimately settling in New York, where he took classes at the Art Students League and created paintings and drawings that will serve as the starting point of this exhibition. In the summer of 1926, Calder moved to Paris, the center of the art world and home to a vibrant community of avant-garde artists, including Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, and Jean Arp. Soon after arriving, Calder dedicated himself to sculpting in wire, thereby creating a radically new form of sculpture in which volume is suggested by expressive lines. These investigations of form and action often took the shape of animals and circus performers, as well as portraits of Calder’s friends and figures from popular culture.
Calder’s initial venture into pure abstraction occurred in 1930, when he created a small series of nonobjective oil paintings, three of which are being presented in the exhibition. Calder subsequently moved on to create sculptures in wire and wood, and, intrigued by the idea of abstract forms able to occupy various positions in space, used motors and cranks to create works that could perform two- or three-cycled motions. Marcel Duchamp coined these new objects “mobiles,” after which Jean Arp wryly suggested that Calder call his static constructions “stabiles.” Calder began to design mobiles to be suspended from the ceiling beginning in 1932, adding a new fourth dimension to sculpture by incorporating time into space.
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