Madonna. Beyonce. Prince. Calder.
This revolutionary artist is in the one-name-club in and out of the art world. Show anyone a classic Calder mobile and they will know who made it by name. His work is so recognizable that even if you have never seen his stationary sculptures (stabiles) before, your initial response to one would be “that reminds me of a Calder…”.
It should come as no surprise that the exclusive East Coast venue for this 40-piece exhibition is the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM). Their specialty seems to be short-run powerhouse exhibitions like the recently closed and much acclaimed Turner & The Sea, 2012’s Ansel Adams: At the Water’s Edge, and many varied shows in between. This exhibition is a little different, though, because Calder’s work is so unique in it’s own right. Instead of paintings on the walls, framed photographs, or jewels in cases, Calder’s work is hanging from the ceiling, or filling up an entire gallery with it’s massive scale.
One reason I love Calder’s work so much is that each piece embodies a unique whimsy without pandering to the viewer. There are plenty of 20th century artists whose work used common symbols to evoke emotions in the viewer (think: the Pop movement), and that certainly has merit. What’s different about Calder’s work is the lack of manipulation of the audience by the art. His simplest works will bring a smile to anyone’s face and ignite their imagination without relying on familiarity and the obvious. Minimalism was never so much fun.
I suggest running, not walking, to this exhibition. Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic is on view from September 6th – January 4, 2015.