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Exhibition Includes Works by Calder and Large-Scale Sculpture by Seven Contemporary Artists
Nathan Carter, RADAR REFLECTOR ORIGIN PETIT CALIVIGNY GRENADA, 2009; Steel, plastic, galvanized wire, aluminum, rubber, enamel paint; Approx. 72 x 72 x 3 in. (182.9 x 182.9 x 7.6 cm.); Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York.


NEWPORT BEACH, CA.- The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) is the only West Coast venue for Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy, an extensive reexamination of the modernist master whose work has inspired a new generation of contemporary artists. From monumental mobiles and stabiles to more delicate works, the exhibition presents approximately 30 sculptures by Calder and major works by seven young artists who embrace the forms and materials used by Calder. Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art is on view April 10 through September 4, 2011.

"This exhibition is one of the first to make the case that young artists are increasingly looking to modernism as a major source for their own art, free of the critique that defined previous generations, and open to how the art of the first half of the 20th century may be reconceived and relevant in our present moment" stated OCMA Director Dennis Szakacs. "In doing so, Calder’s work gains renewed significance and the ongoing dialogue between modern and contemporary art enters a new chapter. We are delighted that three of the participating contemporary artists are based in LA and that, through the generosity our donors, we will bring this important exhibition to audiences throughout Southern California."

Alexander Calder (1898–1976) Throughout his long career, Calder combined playful subject matter, primary colors, and organic and geometric shapes to create accessible works that are witty and buoyantly full of life. This range and resourcefulness is grounded in recurring artistic concerns, in particular the relation between form, mass, and movement. The exhibition presents a range of Calder's classic mobiles—kinetic sculptures made of balanced parts capable of motion; stabiles—self-supporting, static, abstract sculptures; and bronze sculptures.

In an early stage, like Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957), Calder absorbs the base into his free-standing constructions, making no distinction between sculpture and its surround. Calder then moves to obliterate the base or the ground upon which sculpture has normally stood, suspending his objects in space, lifting them up into the air. From Auguste Rodin’s Iris’ Messenger of the Gods (c. 1895) to Brancusi’s Bird in Space (1923), modern sculpture had been contemplating this negation, the desperate need to disconnect from the ground in order to void the obdurate connection of sculpture to its analogue, the rooted human body. Calder’s objects presented an aesthetic of weightlessness, a sculpture of lightness and fragility. As opposed to the stubborn immobility of sculpture, eternally static and unchanging, Calder’s work embraced motion, a series of objects opened up by contingency and chance. Calder’s development of the mobile came to distinguish him as an innovator whose artworks respond to the environment and natural flow of air as visitors move through the space.

The artist estimated that he created over 2,000 mobiles and rarely planned a work beforehand, preferring to work directly with the material, cutting, shaping, balancing, and counterbalancing as he went along. Calder's mobiles take a number of forms: the stationary Little Face (c.1943) with its movable features; familiar hanging mobiles such as Blue among Yellow and Red (1963); and standing mobiles like the figurative Chat-Mobile (Cat Mobile) (1966) and the more abstract Snowflakes and Red Stop (1964). Calder hand-painted most of his works with small brushes, except for the playful series of bird creatures made from coffee and beer cans, such as Bird (c.1952). Calder inventively reused everyday materials found in his home, garden, and pond in Roxbury, Connecticut, which foreshadowed a 21st-century awareness of the need to reuse and recycle materials.

Seven Contemporary Sculptors
This exhibition is an opportunity to see the work of Calder anew, through the eyes of contemporary artists who explore structure and balance, in many cases handcrafting their materials into expressive artworks. The seven contemporary artists have groupings of one to four works each, depending on the size and scale of their work.

Martin Boyce (b. 1967 in Glasgow; resides in Glasgow)
With references to Minimalism and Art Deco, the work of Martin Boyce examines the aesthetics of modern sculpture, furniture, and architecture. The Scottish artist, who recently represented his country at the 2009 Venice Biennale, explores the functionality of design using formal strategies of geometry and repetition. Much of Boyce’s works feature materials associated with modernity, including fluorescent lights and powder-coated steel. In Fear Meets the Soul (2008), for example, Boyce's work closely mimics Calder's early mobiles.

Nathan Carter (b. 1970 in Dallas; resides in Brooklyn, New York)
The vivid work of Nathan Carter draws on a variety of influences from science fiction to comic books to the work of artists David Smith and Stuart Davis. Featuring whimsically absurd titles, his sculpture and wall hangings are fashioned from industrial and found materials that create a myriad of geometric shapes and dynamic lines. With the inclusion of imagery such as zeppelins, rockets, and animals, as well as text, Carter’s work has a welcoming playfulness. His constructions strongly resemble the simple wire-shaped works of Calder that perch atop or hang from a wire suspended between wooden forms.

Abraham Cruzvillegas (b. 1968 in Mexico City; resides in Paris) Abraham Cruzvillegas constructs poignant sculptures from everyday objects. By using found or discarded items that are often part of the urban landscapes in which he works, including Mexico City and Paris, he imbues each piece with a unique personal narrative. Cruzvillegas was a recipient of an Atelier Calder residency in France and created the work Bougie du Isthmus (2005) during his time there. His later work increasingly deals with balance and actual or implied movement. Most recently, his stacks of cast-off wooden objects and other found items show a deeper resonance with Calder’s work.

Aaron Curry (b.1972 in San Antonio, Texas; resides in Los Angeles)
The work of Aaron Curry uses elements of popular culture and media to reconsider tropes and themes of art history. He looks to modernist sculpture by artists such as Jean Arp, Joan Miró, and Jean Dubuffet as points of departure when creating his constructions that blur the line between gravity and weightlessness. The human and animal forms that Calder explored in a group of bronzes from the 1930s are especially inspirational to Curry in his use of organic, balanced forms.

Kristi Lippire (b. 1974 in Honolulu; resides in Los Angeles)
Kristi Lippire reclaims banal, everyday materials and uses them to create playful, tongue-in-cheek works of art. From creating a bundle of balloons out of concrete and steel, to using steel colanders to create a flock of fluttering geese, her works are filled with a whimsical sense of humor that recall Calder's engagement with the natural world of birds, snowflakes, and animals. Lippire's work takes influence from modern sculptors like Calder and Niki de Saint Phalle, but also Latin American folk art and contemporary art history.

Jason Meadows (b. 1972 in Indianapolis, Indiana; resides in Los Angeles)
In his work, Jason Meadows depicts iconic subject material with common materials. Sculptures of Greek mythological beings composed of particle board, and a Spiderman constructed from basketball nets that represent the superhero’s characteristic web-slinging ability exemplify Meadows’ oeuvre. He also explores the idea of functionality, reconfiguring or recreating everyday objects from decidedly unsophisticated materials in ways that deny their implied purpose.

Jason Middlebrook (b. 1966 in Jackson, Michigan; resides in Craryville, New York)
Jason Middlebrook explores notions of waste, refuse, and reuse. In previous projects such as a recent one in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, he has sought to reclaim discarded materials in order to create art and objects of use to the local community. A versatile artist, Middlebrook's work includes sculpture, drawings, and site-specific installations that address man’s relationship to the natural landscape. Middlebrook says, ―In studying this artist to learn how to fashion my work, I became very fascinated by Calder. Calder seems like such a generous artist to me, an artist totally into beauty, which really appeals to me.‖





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April 10, 2011

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