MCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
220 East Chicago Avenue
artists & participants
This summer, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, premieres the major traveling exhibition Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy from June 26 to October 17, 2010, the first exhibition to assess Calder’s influence on the new generation of contemporary sculptors. The presentation of sixty of Calder's iconic works is mounted along with approximately twenty sculptures by seven contemporary artists who have been directly influenced by Calder: Martin Boyce, Nathan Carter, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Aaron Curry, Kristi Lippire, Jason Meadows, and Jason Middlebrook.
Calder has long been a popular and beloved modernist master, but it is only recently that young contemporary artists have turned to his work and its example of hands-on explorations of form, balance, color, and movement. "One of the most vital and interesting dialogues happening in the art world today is how the influence of the modernist generation of artists is increasingly becoming the basis for the creation of relevant and compelling art by contemporary artists," says MCA Curator Lynne Warren.
The selection of Calder's works range from the 1940s to 1970s and are drawn from the MCA's extensive holdings that span his career, complemented by a remarkable array of works drawn from private collections in Chicago and major American public and private collections.
Throughout his long career, Calder combined playful subject matter, primary colors, and organic and geometric shapes to create accessible works that are witty and buoyantly full of life. This range and resourcefulness is grounded in recurring artistic concerns, in particular the relation between form, mass, and movement. The exhibition presents a range of Calder's classic mobiles -- kinetic sculptures made of balanced parts capable of motion; stabiles -- self-supporting, static, abstract sculptures; and bronze sculptures.
Calder’s development of the mobile came to distinguish him as an innovator whose artworks respond to the environment and natural flow of air as visitors move through the space. For this exhibition, Lynne Warren has looked at historical exhibitions of Calder's work to design an installation that optimizes the effects of air currents to move the works.
Calder estimated that he created over 2,000 mobiles. He rarely planned a work beforehand, preferring to work directly with the material, cutting, shaping, balancing, and counterbalancing as he went along. Calder's mobiles take a number of forms: the stationary Little Face (c.1943) with its movable features; familiar hanging mobiles such as Blue among Yellow and Red (1963); and standing mobiles like the figurative Chat-Mobile (Cat Mobile) (1966) and the more abstract Snowflakes and Red Stop (1964).
Calder hand-painted most of his works with small brushes, except for the playful series of bird creatures made from coffee and beer cans, such as Bird (c.1952). Calder inventively reused everyday materials found in his home, garden, and pond in Roxbury, Connecticut, which foreshadowed a 21st-century awareness of the need to reuse and recycle materials.
This exhibition is also a fitting homage to Chicago and its longstanding commitment to the work of Calder. In October 1974, in conjunction with a Calder retrospective at the MCA, the city celebrated "Alexander Calder Day" with a large circus parade and the dedications of the motorized Universe mobile at the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, and the monumental stabile Flamingo, at the Federal Center Plaza.
Seven Contemporary Sculptors This exhibition is an opportunity to see the work of Calder anew, through the eyes of contemporary artists who explore structure and balance, in many cases handcrafting their materials into expressive artworks. The seven contemporary artists have groupings of one to four works each, depending on the size and scale of their work. In addition, the MCA Sculpture Garden features works by Calder, Kristi Lippire, and Aaron Curry. In the central atrium, bridging the two sides of the exhibition, is a major commissioned work by Jason Middlebrook. His large mobile, titled From the Forest to the Mill to the Store to the Home to the Streets and Back Again, has a massive tree trunk on one side, balanced by a large starburst element (made during his residency at Little Black Pearl, a community arts organization with which the MCA partnered on this commission) composed of found pieces of milled wood from the streets and back alleys of Chicago. Alexander Calder Throughout his long career, Calder combined playful subject matter, primary colors, and organic and geometric shapes to create accessible works that are witty and buoyantly full of life. This range and resourcefulness is grounded in recurring artistic concerns, in particular the relation between form, mass, and movement. The exhibition presents a range of Calder's classic mobiles, stabiles, and bronze sculptures in a large, open space based on historical exhibitions of his work.
Martin Boyce Scottish artist Boyce examines the aesthetics of modern sculpture, furniture, and architecture in his work. He explores the functionality of design using formal strategies of geometry and repetition that closely mimic Calder's early mobiles.
Nathan Carter Carter's vivid work draws on a variety of influences from science fiction to comic books to the work of artists David Smith and Stuart Davis. Featuring whimsically absurd titles, his sculpture and wall hangings are fashioned from industrial and found materials that create a myriad of geometric shapes and dynamic lines that have a welcome playfulness.
Abraham Cruzvillegas Cruzvillegas constructs poignant sculptures using found or discarded items that are often part of the urban landscapes in which he works, including Mexico City and Paris. Cruzvillegas was a recipient of an Atelier Calder residency in France and created the work Bougie du Isthmus (2005) during his time there. His work deals with balance and actual or implied movement.
Aaron Curry Curry's work uses elements of media and popular culture to reconsider tropes and themes of art history. He looks to modernist sculpture by artists such as Jean Arp, Joan Miró, and Jean Dubuffet as points of departure when creating his constructions that blur the line between gravity and weightlessness. He is inspired by Calder's animal forms for his use of organic, balanced forms.
Kristi Lippire Lippire reclaims banal, everyday materials and uses them to create playful, tongue-in-cheek works of art. From creating a bundle of balloons out of concrete and steel, to using colanders to create a flock of fluttering geese, her works are filled with a whimsical sense of humor that recall Calder's engagement with the natural world of birds, snowflakes, and animals.
Jason Meadows In his work, Meadows depicts iconic subject material with common materials. Sculptures of Greek mythological beings composed of particle board, and a Spiderman constructed from basketball nets that represent the superhero's characteristic web-slinging ability exemplify Meadows' oeuvre. He also explores the idea of functionality, reconfiguring objects from plain materials in ways that deny their original purpose.
Jason Middlebrook Middlebrook explores notions of waste, refuse, and reuse. In a previous project in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, he sought to reclaim discarded materials in order to create art and objects of use to the local community. For this exhibition, Middlebrook has been comissioned to create a large mobile for the MCA's atrium, titled From the Forest to the Mill to the Store to the Home to the Streets and Back Again. A massive tree trunk on one side is balanced by a large starburst element (made during his residency at Little Black Pearl) composed of found pieces of milled wood from the streets and back alleys of Chicago.
Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy
Kurator: Lynne Warren
Künstler: Alexander Calder & Martin Boyce, Nathan Carter, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Aaron Curry, Kristi Lippire, Jason Meadows, Jason Middlebrook