Thursday 14 January 2016

Review by Dips Patel of “Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture” – an exhibition at Tate Modern

Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture
Tate Modern
11 November 2015 – 3 April 2016

After Giacometti’s exhibition at National Portrait Gallery (see previous entry), I took a stroll down river to Tate Modern to take a gander ‘n’ gawp at this:

Triple Gong, c1948

I’ve loved his stuff for years and apart from seeing a bunch of his work in, I want to say the Musee d’Orsay, but it could well have been the Pompidou, or even the Louvre, never had a chance to see an extensive collection of his stuff. (I remember one option of a module on my art course in college was making a mobile and after about a day of abject failure I picked something else to do!)
Vertical Foliage, 1941
His really early stuff, the simple wire pieces were mesmerising (I know I’ve said before that sculptures are just drawings in space) but these things, the manipulated wire looking like someone has literally just drawn a head in mid-air and sometimes only when you have walked around the thing does it take on the shape and form of a head seen from different angles, or a face or a horse or elephant or a team of acrobats or a…it looks playful and there’s generous humour in these pieces (incidentally, whoever thought of the lighting for this show should get some credit, it is a really gorgeously lit exhibition).
Form Against Yellow, 1936
There’s the seed of something great in the pieces, to me unmistakable, and as you walk through the rooms the development of the work, his ideas, going from mechanical kinetic sculptural works (one of which had Einstein watching it for 45mins until it had gone through its full rotation) to the increasingly monumental mobiles for which he is most famous, ultimately the evolution of the work reveal a clarity of thought and knowledge of materials, physics and engineering (trained as an engineer in his youth) and execution of ideas which resonate with a deep, almost substantial lightness (I know what I’m saying is odd but again I can’t think of the right words).
Medusa, c1930

Varese, c1930

Saturn. The planet. Massive, second only to Jupiter as gaseous giant in our system of solar, and with its rings looks like a reet monster but it’s made of gas so as the gag goes, find a large enough bucket and it’ll float. That’s his mobiles right there, Saturn. His mobiles are like Saturn, which is apt as he did a few sculptures inspired by space and the celestial bodies and stuff. Floating in space, as people move about displacing the air around them they change, evolve and transform the mobiles into living things. That was a treat and a half!
Goldfish Bowl, 1929
About the reviewer
Dips Patel is a graduate in Graphic Design which means he can colour in without going over the lines and when he does he makes it look deliberate, cool and edgy. He much prefers fine art where the art of talking nonsense is finer still allowing him extremely moderate success in introducing his work to a wider audience. Hobbies include reading stuff, watching stuff, commendably misguided attempts at painting stuff and consuming copious amounts of coco pops, clementines, curries, cakes and cocktails, not all at the same time which is frowned upon in polite society.

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