Rome: October 23 2009: The first monographic show in Rome on the most innovative sculptor of the 20th century opens to the public today. “Calder” is on at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome from October 23 2009 until February 14 2010, with 110 works on display. The show was presented on October 21st by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in a vernissage attended by important members of the international arts and culture world (and by this author!).
Curator Alexander S.C. Rower, president of the Calder Foundation of New York, has displayed the famous moving and stable pieces, wire mobiles, bronzes, gouaches, drawings, and oil paintings in essentially chronological order in order to highlight the fundamental aspects of the artist’s career.
Calder’s sculptures enjoy an enormous popularity; they harmonize form, colour, and movement in a whole conceived of as the “universe” – “every element can move around, oscillate back and forth, in a mutual relationship with every other element”.
Alexander Calder’s career spans most of the 20th century and he is one of the most famous and esteemed sculptors of our time. This retrospective exhibition documents Calder’s entire artistic career, not only through his most important works but also with the display of some pieces less known to the general public. For example, the itinerary starts out with some figurative beginnings in oil, gouache and wire sculpture, moving on to bronzes from the 1930s, until the discovery of the abstract and the invention of the mobile and stabile.
A group of small bronzes that Calder made while in Paris in the 1930s is one of the lesser known displays; these figures of acrobats or contortionists demonstrate the artist’s experiments in media (from gesso to metal) and the ways he worked out concepts of movement.
Calder is better known for how he used his innovative genius to revolutionize the course of modern art. The first step in this was the creation of a new sculptural technique: outlining mass and suggesting volume with just a few lines of metalic thread. Calder’s great fame came with the invention of his “mobiles“, hanging mobile works composed of abstract elements that move in ever- changing harmony. He is also known for his monumental outdoor sculptures, made of forged steel, that beautify the world’s public spaces.
The big attractions of the exhibition include some of his most famous mobiles: Untitled from 1933, Spines (Ludwig Museum, 1940), Roxbury Flurry from 1946 and Big Red from 1959 lent by the Whitney Museum of New York; also, Cascading Flowers (1949) from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Le 31 Janvier (1950) from Paris’s Pompidou, The Y from 1960 lent by the Menil Collection in Houston. Of particular note is the massive eight-meter high monumental mobile hung in the grand central hall of the expo building; it is part of the permanent collection of the Pittsburgh airport and of course an important loan for this show.
Attendees will enjoy walking around the rooms of the exhibition, set up on two floors in the pala expo, with the abstract works hanging ethereally from the ceiling. The illumination of the works and space is exceptional; lights cause large white discs to be projected under some of the pieces, creating a shadow game of “art within art”.
INFO: “Calder”, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, via Nazionale 194 – 00184 Roma
Hours: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 10-20; Friday and Saturday 10-22:30; closed Monday
Photo credits: images taken from the official website for promotional purposes.
Guest article by Flavia Grassetti, resident Roman art critic and law student; translated by arttrav.