Los Angeles

Alexander Calder

Perls Gallery

Every age has needed humor to ease itself across the demands of existence and each nation has a characteristic style to its mirth. Alexander Calder is an American humorist in the tradition of Twain and Thurber, but as a sculptor he has the added fillip of esthetic in­ventiveness so intrinsic to his sense for his materials that it seems as if the artist only points to something already existent. To achieve transparency for his hand’s labor is the gift of genius. The highest condition of form is inevi­tability and Calder’s mobiles paradoxi­cally have this quality within their free­dom to vary. He is so skillful at embody­ing his awareness of the precarious that the viewer is moved to tiptoe through an exhibition of his works. How difficult it is to restrain the mimic in­side us when confronting The Look­out or Red Curlicue with Six Darts, for the body wishes to dance and point or slowly revolve with the merry metal beasties.

Calder’s strange whimsical creatures hang and gyrate or rise from seal-shaped bases like blithering Venuses fresh from a zany dip in seaweed. Their logic is a perpetual let’s pretend which does not grow tiresome to anyone who under­stands the archetypal character of great form. The princes and princesses of fairy tales have the same constancy as the fin flippers, spines, circles and leaf­lets which comprise Calder’s world. Order is more remarkable than chance, particularly when it issues from com­plexity and variety. Calder’s work should not be underestimated because of its child’s delight in pinwheels and jug­glers (daisies are more discreet but not less complex than orchids). With an eye akin to Daumier’s for the gestures of life, Calder reinvented shapes and joints that would live as men do, continually reestablishing their foothold in time. Each sculpture’s resolution is internally caused, Blanc de Blanc is a smooth long-limbed beauty while Ten White Dots gives substance to the high­-pitched peep of a dickybird. There are no interchangeable parts in these crea­tions, their affinity is deeply generic like the whole pieced-together character of nature.

––Rosalind G. Wholden