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Exhibition at Pace delineates the history of Alexander Calder's mobiles as it has never been shown before
Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1930. Oil on canvas, 39-1/4" × 25-1/2" (99.7 cm × 64.8 cm). Photo Courtesy of: Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- Pace Gallery is inaugurated its new global headquarters in Chelsea, New York, with a major exhibition tracing the breadth of Alexander Calder’s innovative practice, leading up to his conception of the mobile in 1931—an unprecedented form of kinetic sculpture that radically altered the trajectory of modern art. Working in close collaboration with the Calder Foundation, New York, Pace presents approximately seventy works, spanning the 1920s to the 1960s, that delineate the history of the mobile as it has never been shown before. Organized chronologically, the exhibition examines defining moments in Calder’s oeuvre, from his gestural animal sketches of 1925 and three‑dimensional wire sculptures made in the late 1920s, to his abstract oil paintings of October 1930 and the first truly kinetic sculptures created in the early 1930s. The exhibition takes its name from Calder’s first hanging mobile, Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere (1932/33), installed among key examples of the medium from the ensuing decades. Calder: Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere is on view from September 14 to October 26, 2019, during which time various sculptures in the exhibition will be activated for the public on a schedule.

Exhibited in the 3,600‑square‑foot first‑floor gallery, the largest exhibition space within Pace’s new building, Calder: Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere capture the remarkable transition from potential to actual energy in Calder’s work and underscore his relentless pursuit of the vitality and life force in art. The installation has been designed by Stephanie Goto, marking her first large‑scale exhibition with Pace. In this new space, she has employed a range of distinct architectural elements and design techniques, including an iconic central volume, that utilize light and space to reveal major breakthrough points in Calder’s artistic process. For the viewer, the design also unfolds as a highly intentional, meditative walk through the gallery.

“Calder was a true pioneer and his legacy continues to influence so many of the artists that we work with today,” says Marc Glimcher. “Through his creation of the mobile, Calder introduced a radical new approach that forever changed how we understand and experience sculpture and we can’t think of a better suited artist to inaugurate the main gallery in our new home. This exhibition not only reflects our enduring relationship with Alexander Calder and the Calder Foundation but also our dedication to activating the history of our artists to connect their work with new audiences from a renewed perspective.”

Alexander S. C. Rower, president of the Calder Foundation and grandson of the artist, notes, “I have always wanted to do a show focusing on this important moment in my grandfather’s trajectory. The move away from his first great invention of wire sculpture and his transition into abstraction—all within a couple of years—paved the way for his creation of the mobile. Calder’s genius lies in how he engaged ideas of immateriality, perception, and the actuality of the moment, or present‑time experience—notions that remain just as urgent and important today.”

Calder: Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere begins in 1925 with nearly fifty brush drawings that Calder made of animals at the Bronx and Central Park zoos. “Animals–Action: These two words go hand in hand in art,” he wrote in Animal Sketching, a drawing manual with over a hundred of these sketches published in 1926. The potential energy of the creatures he portrayed were captured through gestural brushstrokes. In his revolutionary wire sculptures that soon followed, Calder introduced this painterly energy into physical three‑dimensional space. French critics coined the phrase “drawing in space” in 1929 to describe these figurative wire works, among them the portrait Jimmy Durante (c. 1928) and Circus Scene (1929).

Calder made a series of abstract oil paintings in the two weeks following his visit to Piet Mondrian’s Paris studio in October 1930, six of which are on view. It was the all‑encompassing environmental installation of Mondrian’s studio that ultimately pushed him toward total abstraction: “This one visit gave me a shock that started things.” He created his first truly kinetic sculpture the following year, giving form to an entirely new type of art: the mobile. Coined for these works by Marcel Duchamp in 1931, the word “mobile” refers to both “motion” and “motive” in French. Calder’s earliest mobiles moved by a variety of means, as seen in the crank‑driven Two Spheres Within a Sphere (1931) and the motor‑driven objects Double Arc and Sphere (c. 1932) and Dancing Torpedo Shape (1932). When the latter two works debuted in 1933 at the Berkshire Museum, Calder referred to them as “among the more successful of my earliest attempts at plastic objects in motion.” The Berkshire bought them, marking Calder’s first sale to a museum, and they were recently acquired by the Calder Foundation.

Calder’s first hanging mobile was Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere (1932/33), an eccentric conceptual work that engages avant‑garde music, viewer intervention, chance, and variable configuration. Displacing the large “heavy sphere,” made of cast iron, sets the small wooden sphere in motion around a seemingly random collection of repurposed objects situated on the floor near the viewer. In this open composition of real‑time orchestration, Calder was asking the viewer to step into dual roles of composer and conductor. As Calder continued to develop his mobiles—engaging the dynamic, unseen forces of nature—they would become his best‑known body of work, typified by the classical style of Eucalyptus (1940) [pictured above], Red Maze III (1954), and Black Mobile with Hole (1954).

Calder: Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with texts by Arnauld Pierre, Susan Braeuer Dam, Alexander S. C. Rower, and Noam M. Elcott.

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