Calder: The Conquest of Space: The Later Years: 1940-1976 (Knopf, 2020) is the second and final volume of Jed Perl’s exhaustively researched recounting of a deeply influential, big-name modernist’s very big life.
The new book follows Perl’s first volume, Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898-1940, which was published in late 2017. Perl, the former, longtime art critic for the New Republic, spent more than a decade researching and writing his comprehensive biography of Alexander Calder. In this volume, the ideas and achievements of an artist who, the author argues, played an essential role in inventing the art of the 20th century have been discerningly documented — and critically assessed — as never before.
Calder — who was known to his friends and everyone in the art world as “Sandy,” his boyish nickname — was born in Philadelphia in 1898 to artist parents who had met while studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His father, Alexander Stirling Calder, was a sculptor who revered Rodin and whose public works include a statue of George Washington on the arch in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park. Sandy’s paternal grandfather, a Scottish-born immigrant to the US, had also been a sculptor; his well-known monuments include the statue of William Penn atop Philadelphia’s City Hall.
Since his childhood, Calder had been an inveterate tinkerer, always skillful and clever with a pair of pliers and a spool of wire; artistic by nature, he laid a valuable practical foundation for his future work by majoring in engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. Then, in the 1920s and early 1930s, like his parents in their younger years, Calder spent some formative time in Paris, where he fell in with a legion of artists and writers who would help shape the ethos, attitudes, and styles of modernism. The plasticiens (visual artists) among them had worked their way through the aesthetic-technical issues that Cubism had thrown up earlier in the century. All were eager to develop their own new modes of expression.
Calder’s encounter with Piet Mondrian at the Dutch painter’s studio in Paris in 1930 brought the young American an epiphany: in examining the older modernist’s geometric compositions, whose rhythmic energy belied their austere, static forms, Sandy realized that his own art — rigid, stationary sculpture — might also, somehow, become animated — literally, if not only suggestively. For Perl, that breakthrough discovery provides the main key to understanding the evolution of Calder’s revolutionary art.
Calder: The Conquest of Space: The Later Years: 1940-1976 picks up the thread of Sandy’s life story and career trajectory at a crucial moment. With World War II brewing, the artist left Paris for the United States, where he and his wife Louisa, a grandniece of the writer Henry James, purchased an 18th-century farmhouse in western Connecticut (though his deep, abiding ties to France would lead him, in the 1950s, to set up a second residence and an ever-expanding studio in the Touraine region, southwest of Paris).
Calder, Perl notes, had been too young to be drafted to serve in the first world war and, later, was considered too old for the second. During the 1930s and 1940s, Sandy and Louisa’s Connecticut home became a gathering place and refuge for a steady stream of artist and writer friends fleeing the Nazis and the chaos of the war in Europe.
Both in Connecticut and during his routine forays into nearby New York City, Calder crossed paths with André Masson, André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, and Arshile Gorky, among others, as well as such established, local cultural figures as the architect-designer Frederick Kiesler, the curator James Johnson Sweeney, the collector and art dealer Peggy Guggenheim (he made her an outlandish bed headboard), and the writer-editor Malcolm Cowley. Some of these creative confrères became the Calders’ close, lifelong friends.
Sandy and Louisa’s lives became deeply informed by their treasured, diverse, international community of friends and professional associates, and, later, by their travels to other parts of the world. They both spoke French capably enough, even if Calder, a bear of a man who sometimes appeared to withdraw into himself, tended to mumble in any language. He was never a nationalist or an adherent of any religion (his mother was Jewish, which made Calder Jewish, too, according to Judaic law, but he never practiced Judaism). Perl writes, “Sandy had grown up with a Scottish Protestant father in a family where art was the one religion in which everybody believed.”
At his Connecticut home, Calder built a workshop on the foundation of an old barn. Perl notes that, in this rural setting, Sandy, like his nearby neighbor, the émigré Masson, “embraced the fecundity of nature,” and that his surroundings “pushed Calder’s art in new lyric directions.” (Masson, Perl adds, “liked to paint in the nude.”)
Calder continued developing “mobiles,” his signature inventions consisting of delicate cascades of wire and shaped bits of metal, wood, or glass. Normally suspended from the ceiling and moving gently in response to air currents, they never fail to energize the space around them.
A sophisticated, if totally natural and unaffected sense of freedom, playfulness, and sometimes even joy pulses through these works and so many others that Calder created throughout his long career. As Perl observes, as much as the mobiles command the physical spaces they occupy, they are also, unmistakably, self-contained. The artist referred to his various three-dimensional works as “objects,” not as “sculptures.”
Perl writes that “for an artist with an imagination as voracious as Sandy Calder’s, the vigorous imperatives of reality were never far from the equally vigorous imperatives of fantasy.” Although Calder hobnobbed with the European Surrealists, as Perl notes, when it came to “artistic controversies, debates, and turf battles,” he “kept his own counsel.” His art defied familiar labels. “The art of the mobile, after all, transformed a fantasy of matter-in-motion into matter that actually moved.”
Later, he adds: “[Calder] defied many if not all of the conventions of sculpture. The art of the mobile was the art of a verticalist. By making sculpture move, Calder had indeed conquered time.” Reaching beyond the earlier experiments of, say, the Cubists or the Futurists, who had toyed with the theme of time two-dimensionally, Calder brought a sensation of real time unfolding into art, forever transforming sculpture’s expressive power.
Perl recalls Calder’s first retrospective exhibition, which took place at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943; it affirmed the uniqueness of his contributions to modern art’s still-evolving language. Some of Perl’s most engaging passages are those in which he finds meaning in his subject’s working methods or analyzes certain aesthetic issues that emerged from Calder’s oeuvre.
About the sculptor’s Constellations series of the 1940s, a group of small, freestanding works that employed bits of walnut, maple, or mahogany, Perl observes, “To work in wood was to embrace a substance that already had a mysterious life of its own.” Later, he notes that the subsequent, younger generation of modern artists — whose celebrated, postwar existential angst fueled gutsy Abstract Expressionism — dismissed Calder’s art. For them, aesthetically, it felt too lightweight.
Nevertheless, whether representing the US at the Venice Biennale or creating large-scale public works — Duchamp suggested that Calder call them “stabiles,” a French word whose meaning was the opposite of “mobile” — Sandy spent the decades until his death in 1976 making his mark around the world.
With large steel “objects” that seemed to have landed from outer space in such places as Spoleto, Italy; Mexico City; Chicago; and Jerusalem — even as, curiously, they integrated neatly with their surroundings — Calder redefined the meaning of monumental sculpture in the modern age. Implicitly employing the language of abstract form, these massive, oddly shaped creations subtly evoked history, humankind’s relationship with nature, and other themes that resonated with the inhabitants of the cities in which they were installed.
In a poetic-sounding remark about his mobiles in the catalogue of a 1941 exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery in New York, Calder wrote, “How can art be realized? masses, directions, limited spaces within the great space, the universe…” Describing his then-novel works, he concluded, “…abstractions which resemble nothing in life except their manner of reacting.”
If that artist’s statement sounds like mumbling-in-print, Perl’s assessment of the grand lesson to be gleaned from the artist’s work and career is more lucid. Of Calder’s enduring achievement, he writes:
[He] took his place among the generations of modern artists, beginning with Rodin, Cézanne, Brancusi, and Picasso, who reconsidered what it meant to create life. No longer were the figures in a painting or a sculpture what really mattered. Now what mattered was the life of the work of art itself.
Calder: The Conquest of Space: The Later Years: 1940-1976 (2020) by Jed Perl is published by Alfred A. Knopf.
Arthur “Art” Dorion – paNOW
Posted 11 hours ago
Arthur “Art” Louie Dorion was born on Tuesday, April 25, 1961, Pelican Narrows, SK and passed away on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in Saskatoon, SK, at the age of 59 years. Art is survived by his loving family, his wife, Gertie (Nee Linklater) Dorion, and all his children; his brothers, Roy Dorion, Steven Dorion, Gilbert Dorion, Alphonse Dorion, Hank Dorion, Leon Dorion, Courtney Dorion, Curtis Michel; his sisters, Leona Halcrow, Margaret Ballantyne, Ann Michel, Louise Dorion, Alice McKenzie, Sophie Dorion, Marriette McCallum, Margaret Gardner, Marlene Custer; his aunties, Caroline Beattie, Margaret Ballantyne Beatty, Joyce Ballantyne Beatty; his uncles, Allan Ballantyne, Cornelius Ballantyne. He was predeceased by
his parents, Henry Charles Dorion, Jane Mary (Nee Ballantyne) Dorion; his siblings, Irene (infant), Viola (infant), Eva Rita (Verna); his grandparents, John Dorion, Marie (Nee Michel) Dorion, Simeon Ballantyne, Elizabeth Ballantyne; his uncles, Alphonse Dorion, Peter Dorion, Magloire Dorion, Henry Ballantyne, Benjamin Ballantyne, Ralph Beatty; his brother-in-law, Ivan Charles Halcrow. A private Wake and Funeral Service will be held in Pelican Narrows, SK with Steve Watkins officiating. Online condolences may be left at https://www.arbormemorial.ca/en/riverpark/obituaries/arthur-art-dorion/49944 . Funeral arrangements are entrusted to the care of River Park Funeral Home, (306) 764-2727, Don Moriarty, Funeral Director.
Leon Draisaitl, Alphonso Davies compare notes after Oilers star wins Art Ross – CBC.ca
Leon Draisaitl had just wrapped up a phone call with Alphonso Davies.
The German hockey star and the Canadian soccer sensation have a lot in common.
A dominant centre for the Edmonton Oilers, Draisaitl became the first athlete in his country’s history to lead a North American sports league in scoring when he was awarded the Art Ross Trophy earlier this week after the NHL called time on its novel coronavirus-hit 2019-20 regular season.
Davies, meanwhile, the Canadian refugee-turned-soccer-phenom, is turning more heads each week for Bayern Munich in the Germany’s Bundesliga, with his matches becoming must-see-TV for many fans back home.
The pair — elite talents from non-traditional countries in their sports — have stayed in touch since the 19-year-old, Edmonton-raised Davies dropped the ceremonial puck at an Oilers game in December.
“I kind of know what he’s going through right now with soccer being so big back home and hockey being big in Canada,” Draisaitl said on a video conference call with reporters Thursday. “Coming over and trying to adjust and find your rhythm, find your game, find your life a little bit.
“He’s becoming a very, very good player. It’s very fun to watch, fun to see.”
WATCH | Draisaitl humbled by Art Ross win:
After a stuttering start to his NHL career, Oilers fans feel the same way about Draisaitl.
The 24-year-old finished the regular season with 43 goals and 110 points in 71 games, 13 clear of teammate and fellow star Connor McDavid.
Draisaitl was on pace for 127 points — one short of Nikita Kucherov’s mark last season — a total that came on the heels of the 105 he put up in 2018-19.
That story, however, had a somewhat rocky beginning.
The No. 3 pick at the 2014 draft got a 37-game audition with Edmonton as a teenager before getting sent back to junior. Draisaitl arrived at training camp the following September looking to stick, but was shipped to the minors for six games.
While it might not have seemed like it in the moment, that extra seasoning was important.
“I don’t think I was ready at the time,” Draisaitl said of playing in the NHL as a teenager. “It’s OK to maybe take a step down. That was the case with me. In the long run, that was probably the best thing for me, to go back down to junior and start the next year in the AHL.
“Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to take a step back and go at your own pace.”
WATCH | Will the 2020 Stanley Cup come with an asterisk?:
Draisaitl’s pace has certainly ramped up drastically since those difficult first few seasons.
Along with McDavid, he’s been at the forefront of the Oilers’ resurgence that saw the team sitting second in the Pacific Division with 83 points when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NHL to pause play March 12.
McDavid is the face of the franchise and one of the faces of the league — but it’s their team.
“It’s been great to stick around the same group of guys for so many years now and see them grow and watch the team grow, watch the organization grow,” Draisaitl said. “It’s definitely a lot of fun to be a part of. We still have a lot of upside.”
He’s also keenly aware he’s become the face of German hockey, which continues to produce high-end talent, including projected top-5 draft pick Tim Stutzle.
“We’re heading in the right spot as a country,” Draisaitl said. “Germany just isn’t a big hockey country. That’s just how it is, but we can still become a very solid hockey country.”
Praise from McDavid
The NHL unveiled its return-to-play plan earlier this week — there’s still lots of hurdles to overcome for the games to actually resume this summer — but the Oilers know if that happens, they’ll face the Chicago Blackhawks in one of eight best-of-five qualifying round series for a right to make the playoffs.
Draisaitl and McDavid started the season on the same line, as they had in the past, but were split up in December to give the team a different look. Draisaitl then carried the load himself when McDavid went down with an injury in February.
“What he’s done for our group has been great,” said McDavid, who along with Draisaitl are in the running for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. “He’s helped both our team and me personally out a ton.”
“He’s always been very confident, he’s always been an unbelievable hockey player, and he just continues to work,” Nurse said. “He didn’t change much. He just kept playing.”
Never one keen to talk about himself, Draisaitl was more than happy to share the credit for his Art Ross.
“There’s always people that help you get there,” he said. “You dream of these things.
“But until you do it, it always seems so far away.”
A certain Canadian soccer star probably feels the same way.
WATCH | Latest on sports’ return:
Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl proud to win Art Ross, eager to keep building his game – Globalnews.ca
The Art Ross Trophy belongs to Leon Draisaitl as the NHL’s leading scorer. What about the Hart as the league’s most valuable player?
“I don’t pay too much attention to Hart Trophy race, to be honest with you,” Draisaitl said on a conference call on Friday. “Of course, it would be a big honour to win it or even come close to being in the race.”
Draisaitl, 24, officially claimed the scoring title on Tuesday when the NHL declared the regular season over. He wound up with 110 points in 71 games, leading the league with 67 assists. While he came into the league with a reputation as a play-maker, he’s also become an elite goal scorer: 50 goals last season; 43 this year.
“I think I’ve always kind of been more of the pass-first type of guy, but I knew early on in my career in the NHL that I have to be a threat to shoot once in a while, too, otherwise I’m too predictable,” said Draisaitl.
“It’s something I’ve worked on constantly during the summer, in season.”
“He just continues to work,” said defenceman Darnell Nurse. “He worked all summer to put himself in a position to come in and have success.”
Draisaitl finished 13 points ahead of teammate Connor McDavid in the scoring race. He joins McDavid and Wayne Gretzky as the only Oilers to win the Art Ross.
“He gives me nice passes, so that definitely helps me out,” chuckled McDavid. “What he’s done for our group has been great. A lot was made of us playing together or not playing together. He just gives us that kind of different look.”
McDavid and Draisaitl were linemates for the first half of the season, but after New Year’s Eve, Draisaitl played mostly with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto. The success of that trio further thrust Draisaitl into the spotlight.
“Every year he’s taken a big jump,” said Oilers defenceman Matt Benning. “I think this year he really embraced a leadership role and wanted to be the go-to guy.
“His confidence — it wasn’t cockiness — it was confidence. He had a swagger about himself. That really helps. He made players around him better.”
Draisaitl agrees that he’s become more of a leader over the last two seasons.
“When you’re young, there’s not much for you to say. Your play on the ice doesn’t play as a big of a role, have as big of an impact, as it does now, being 24 years old, being in the league for a while,” Draisaitl explained.
“You change as a player, you change as a person a bit. It’s been great to stick around the same group of guys for so many years.”
Draisaitl and the Oilers now look ahead to their qualifying round series against Chicago, which is at least a couple of months away as part of the NHL’s return-to-play plan.
The Oilers and their fans dream of a long playoff run. Draisaitl will be a spark for any success the team has.
“You dream of these things, but until you do it, it seems so far away. I’m proud, in a way, of course, but I know I still have lots of things to work on,” he said.
“I know I have lots of things to improve and I’m looking to do that every year.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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