Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic

Resnick Pavilion
November 24, 2013–July 27, 2014

One of the most important artists of the twentieth century, Alexander Calder revolutionized modern sculpture. Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, with significant cooperation from the Calder Foundation, explores the artist’s radical translation of French Surrealist vocabulary into American vernacular. His most iconic works, coined mobiles by Marcel Duchamp, are kinetic sculptures in which flat pieces of painted metal connected by wire move delicately in the air, propelled by motors or air currents. His later stabiles are monumental structures, whose arching forms and massive steel planes continue his engagement with dynamism and daring innovation. Although this will be his first museum exhibition in Los Angeles, Calder holds a significant place in LACMA’s history: the museum commissioned Three Quintains (Hello Girls) for its opening in 1965. The installation was designed by architect Frank O. Gehry.

Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in cooperation with the Calder Foundation, New York. Funding provided by LACMA's Art Museum Council and Phillips. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
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Image: Installation photograph, Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, November 24, 2013–July 27, 2014, © 2014 Calder Foundation, New York, Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, photo © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen


Capturing Calder

People are often surprised to hear that a large-scale exhibition usually takes between two to five years to organize: years filled with a myriad of administrative and creative tasks, including negotiating loans, producing the catalogue, developing the installation design, and constructing and installingthe exhibition. Our work culminates in the moment when we find ourselves alone in a finished exhibition: everything is perfectly in its place, the walls and pedestals are pristine, and, if all went as planned, the exhibition looks like what you had imagined

The Challenge of Installing Calder

Installing a sculpture exhibition—particularly one in which works are bound to walls, sit on pedestals, hang in the air, hover close to the ground, and vary significantly in scale—can be tricky. In developing this exhibition, I reviewed historical photos of Calder’s studio and presentations he designed and compared them with exhibition design from the past 40 years…