Alexander Calder: The Paris Years (Whitney Museum, NYC)


Friday nights are a great time to visit museums in New York City. Most stay open until 9PM and several have deals on admission — the MoMA is free and the Whitney is a pay-what-you-wish fee. Over Christmas, Sharon’s brother gave us a great book from the Whitney’s exhibit on Alexander Calder’s Paris Years (1926-1933). I’m a big fan of Calder’s mobiles and we wanted to see the work before it left the museum.

Arriving at 6PM, the line was not too long as it was a balmy 6 degrees outside. We got in quickly and headed to the special exhibit floor. This exhibit was a unique showcase of an important transition period in Calder’s work. Upon entering there was a large focus on Calder’s line-work — lots of portraits, heads, and fictional creatures. The Whitney also owns one of Calder’s most famous pieces from the era, The Circus, which had several-dozen hand-made figurines all capable of movement by the artist. While in Paris, he would often perform for other famous peers like Mondrian and Duchamp.


What I found particularly interesting was the evolution of the abstract you could literally trace. From the wire people, Calder moved more towards his famous “mobiles” — a term coined by Duchamp himself. Mondrian’s colors and abstractions clearly influenced Calder, and throughout performing The Circus, he learned balancing techniques and physical movement. It was very cool viewing such a respected artist really coming into his own — a well thought-out and put-together show.


After the Whitney we had a quick street snack of salami and cheese from Koglin German Hams in Grand Central Market. Still hungry, we enjoyed another fantastic sushi dinner at the never-disappointing Ginger in the East Village. Stuffed and happy, we headed home.


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