Calder: La gravedad y la gracia, is the first retrospective exhibition that the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía dedicates to Alexander Calder (Lawnton, Pennsylvania, United States, 1898 - New York, United States, 1976). Painter, printmaker, but above all sculptor, Calder’s priority interest is the kinetic potential of art and he experiments with various materials for his pieces. The artist captures movement in a series of structures that offer radical alternatives to the languages of Abstraction and existing concepts on sculpture which, in turn, have a profound impact on the history of art in the twentieth century.
Calder received academic training in mechanical engineering, and in 1923 joins the Art Students League of New York. In 1924 he works as an illustrator at the National Police Gazette, which commissions him with illustrations for a circus. This awakens in him a fascination for the circus which results in Cirque Calder, a performance with figures created with wire and which premiers in Paris in 1926. He settles there and comes into contact with members of the Parisian avant-garde.
His aesthetic is altered after visiting the studio of Piet Mondrian in 1930. Calder, overwhelmed by the intensity of his geometric compositions, imagines them in movement and stops making figurative wire sculptures, adopting an entirely abstract sculptural language.
In 1931 he joins the group Abstraction-Création and builds sculptures composed of independent moving parts, which are activated by an electric motor or a hand crank and which Marcel Duchamp christens mobiles. In 1932 he creates hanging pieces powered by air and soon begins to use industrial materials, sculptural equivalents of the floating biomorphic figures in Joan Miró's paintings -with whom he collaborates and exhibits on several occasions-, Jean Arp’s reliefs, who coined the term stabile (stable) for stationary pieces.
The exhibition traces Calder’s vision through a selection of sculptures created over five decades. The desire to create a type of art that evokes life provokes in the artist a constant concern for the force of gravity, air circulation and the intervention of chance.
The mobiles and stabiles as well as his subsequent constellations, towers and gongs, offer a journey from the first mobiles of the Thirties until the models from his latest large public sculptures.
Museo Guggenheim Bilbao (March 18 - October 7, 2003)