new-york

Alexander Calder

Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

These two monumental—indeed, gigantic—sculptures, Big, Big Black, 1957 (a mobile) and Spunk of the Monk, 1964 (a stabile), show the heroic possibilities of a master’s late style. It is as though Alexander Calder were epitomizing himself for posterity: offering allegorical self-representations as well as symbols of his artistic ambition. But this personalized rhetoric is deceptive: these works are not inviting. They give the lie to Calder’s supposed coyness and humor. He has constructed two uncanny, inhospitable spaces—forbidden zones that show abstraction’s power to evoke a sense of the inhuman absolute.

The sculptures are, to an extent, “creaturely,” as many of Calder’s works are. The mobile evokes a flock of birds, the stabile a spider. (Soaring into space and creating an intricate spatial web, they simultaneously effect what the best abstraction achieves.) They also have the signature

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