The Alexander Calder exhibition currently running at the Tate Modern until 3 April is exciting, joyful and playful. Famous for his mobile sculptures, the American Alexander Calder came from a family of sculptors and painters but trained and worked firstly as an engineer before returning 1 to the world of art.
"Performing Sculpture" exhibits about 100 works which illustrate the development of his practice, culminating in his 'mobile' creations.
Calder was an important, groundbreaking 20th century figure, a pioneer of the kinetic art that introduced movement into artistic practice. Born in Pennsylvania in 1898 and educated as a mechanical engineer, Calder moved to Paris in the 1920's where he entered art school and created his early wire sculptures. By 1931 he had invented the 'mobile', a term coined by Marcel Duchamp to describe Calder's motorised objects.
"Calder is one of those artists who, the moment his name is mentioned, a picture forms in your head - and the picture is never quite true to the work," says Achim Borchardt- Hume, the director of exhibitions at the Tate Modern.
" There is more variety in Calder's work than many realise", he says. That variety includes jewellery and mechanical toys as well as abstract paintings and both stationary and mobile sculptures.
"It took decades of experimentation for the artist, who trained as an engineer, to take sculpture from a static object that suggests movement to something that actually performs movement, " says Borchardt-Hume.
The exhibition traces the development of his unique work from early wire figurative forms, to motorised automata and finally to suspended, articulated combinations of wire and shaped metal sheet that move without motors in response to invisible currents of air.
The exhibition ends dramatically with, 'Black Widow 1948' - a 12 ft (3.5 metre) tall mobile - probably Calder's masterpiece, which has left its home in Brazil to be shown here. The air currents created by visitors moving keeps the mobile gently rotating -
"like clouds drifting across the sky".
By Claudia Barbieri
By Claudia Barbieri