Alexander Calder was a contemporary of Olive Pink, the one-of-a-kind woman whom I wrote about yesterday. The love of her life was an all-Australian botanic garden in the middle of The Outback. The love of his life was mobiles. Or maybe it was his circus. He was an engineer who created art objects that moved. They were called mobiles, a word he invented. Parents frequently hang mobiles in their baby’s room to stimulate an understanding of space with sometimes moving, colorful objects.
I had only seen Alexander Calder’s moving mobiles in films until Ruth & I saw an exhibit of his sculptures at the Whitney Museum in New York last year called “Hypermobility”. At noon, someone activated a few of them with a stick and they danced around as if motorized. They were not. Calder carefully crafted them in such a way that they seemed to move on their own. Early in life Calder decided to become a mechanical engineer, studied at Stevens Institute of Technology, and earned an engineering degree. Later he applied what he learned to small and large sculptures. Many years ago I repeatedly saw a film of him in which he, like the perfect grandfather, manipulated wire circus performers he had created to entertain guests in his house in France. The Whitney had it on display in its old museum. Calder died in 1976. Olive Pink died in 1975.
There are frequent exhibits of Alexander Calder’s works. Earlier this year Ruth and I went to the Phoenix Art Museum because it had an exhibit called “Alexander Calder: An Outburst of Color”. I found it oddly displayed in a conference room that was occupied when we arrived. We couldn’t see it. When we were ready to leave, we circled back to the room. The people had left and it was empty, but there was still a guard at the door. I asked her if we could see the Calders. She checked with someone and let us in. They were typical of his work, in other words delightfully childlike.
On the way out I spoke to the lady in the gift shop. I asked her where the Calder show, which was about to end, would go next. “Back into storage,” she told me. As it turned out, all of the framed Calders on display were owned by…the Phoenix Art Museum. She told me that they almost always had some of their impressive collection of Calders on view. That explained why they were hung on walls in a conference-meeting room.
Has anyone else besides me seen and been delighted by Cirque Calder?