Calder and Crew


Nasher exhibition explores a master's influence on contemporary artists.

Photo above: Up in the air
Calder's Bird (c. 1952), made of coffee cans, tin, and copper wire, draws from his earlier experience as a toymaker and presages his later, more abstract hanging sculptures.
Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

While Alexander Calder may be best known for constructing abstract sculptures and mobiles, his work is rarely considered a source of inspiration for contemporary artists. But in the new exhibition Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy, thirty-four of Calder's original works will be displayed alongside the work of seven contemporary sculptors to illustrate his influence on a new generation. The show, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, will be on display at the Nasher Museum from February 16 to June 17.

Though Nasher is the fourth and final stop on the exhibition's tour, it will offer visitors a different perspective. While previous curators have kept Calder's works separate from those of the other artists, Sarah Schroth, Nasher's senior curator, plans to make the connections between Calder and the other artists more explicit. The pieces—mostly sculptural works—will fill two of Nasher's three pavilions. To accentuate the feel of a contemporary art gallery, several interior dividing walls will be removed for the show, and the remaining walls will be painted gray.

Each of the seven artists exhibited with Calder has cited the sculptor as an influence. The show is the first major museum exposure for two of the artists, Kristi Lippire and Jason Middlebrook, and both will serve as artists-inresidence at Duke during the spring. The exhibition also features works by Martin Boyce, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Nathan Carter, Aaron Curry, and Jason Meadows.

"I think it's a revisit or a re-viewing of a great Old Master, but in a new context," says Schroth. She notes that while Calder's popularity has fluctuated since his death, his influence is undeniable. "This [exhibition] is a lesson in the fact that contemporary artists also look backward and also learn from the Old Masters," she says. "There's never been a show where young sculptors are juxtaposed with a master of modernism."

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