Art@Site Alexander 'Sandy' Calder White Cascade Philadelphia

Alexander 'Sandy' Calder


White Cascade

Federal Reserve Bank
how balance feels
It is quiet,
we are connected with each other,
equivalent weights,
the balance resets carefully after any movement.
This seems to me a boring world;
no clear-cut opposites,
not knowing mine and thine,
not feeling the extent of an opposing force,
no unexpected news,
no reason for development.
Could you handle this subtlety?
For me it would take some getting used to.
By Theo,

zoals evenwicht voelt
Het is stil,
we zijn met elkaar verbonden,
vergelijkbare gewichten,
evenwicht herstelt voorzichtig na een beweging.
Dit lijkt mij een uiterst saaie wereld;
geen heldere uitersten,
niet weten van mijn en dijn,
niet voelen hoe sterk een tegenkracht is,
geen onverwachts nieuws,
geen reden voor ontwikkeling.
Zou jij deze subtiliteit aankunnen?
Het zou voor mij wennen zijn.
Door Theo,
It was in 1930 that Calder, the son of Alexander Stirling Calder and grandson of Alexander Milne Calder, became interested in abstraction. Visiting the studio of modernist painter Piet Mondrian, Calder was impressed by the abstract arrangements of brilliant colors on Mondrian’s walls. He decided that he would like to make such blocks of color 'oscillate,' and within two years he had created his first moving sculpture.
The artist Marcel Duchamp coined the term 'mobile' to describe this highly original form of art. By the end of Calder’s career, many cities in the United States and abroad had acquired examples of his monumental sculpture. Along with Beverly Pepper’s Phaedrus, White Cascade was commissioned for the Federal Reserve Bank as part of the Redevelopment Authority’s Percent for Art program. Despite its massiveness, the mobile is both graceful and playful. As the artist Fernand Léger remarked, Calder’s work is 'serious without seeming to be.h, Anthony Janson (2004):
One important development which Surrealism produced in the early 1930s were the mobile sculptures of the American Alexander Calder (1898 - 1976).
Called mobiles for short, they are delicately balanced constructions of metal wire, hinged together and weighted so as to move with the slightest breath of air.
Unpredictable and ever-changing, such mobiles incorporate the fourth dimension as an essential element.
Kinetic sculpture had been conceived first by the Constructivists. Their influence is evident in Calder’s earliest mobiles, which were motor-driven and tended toward abstract geometric forms.
Calder was also affected early on by Mondrian, whose use of primary colors he adopted. Like Mondrian, he initially thought of his constructions as self-contained miniature universes.
But it was his contact with Surrealism that made him realize the poetic possibilities of 'natural' rather than fully controlled movement. He borrowed biomorphic shapes from Mirógan to conceive of mobiles as counterparts to organic structures: flowers on flexible stems, foliage quivering in the breeze, marine animals floating in the sea. Infinitely responsive to their enironment, they seem amazingly alive.
Created by Alexander Calder a few months before his death, White Cascade is considered the world’s largest mobile. From the skylight it descends through 100 feet of the Federal Reserve Bank’s 130-foot-high East Court. Including its electric motor, the massive mobile weighs almost 10 tons. The 14 white aluminum disks range in diameter from 3.5 to 12.7 feet; the stainless steel connecting rods vary from 9 to 36 feet in length. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the entire structure revolves clockwise in its vast atrium.
Dating from 1931, Calder's sculptures of discrete movable parts powered by motors were christe"mobiles" by Marcel Duchamp, a French pun meaning both "motion" and "motive". However, Calder found that the motorized works sometimes became monotonous in their prescribed movements. His solution, arrived at by 1932, was hanging sculptures that derived their motion from touch or air currents. They were followed in 1934 by outdoor pieces which were set in motion by the open air. The wind mobiles featured abstract shapes delicately balanced on pivoting rods that moved with the slightest current of air, allowing for a natural shifting play of forms and spatial relationships. Calder was also experimenting with self-supporting, static, abstract sculptures, dubbed "stabiles" by Jean Arp in 1932 to differentiate them from mobiles. In 1935–1936, he produced a number of works made largely of carved wood. At Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (1937), the Spanish pavilion included Calder's sculpture Mercury Fountain.
Calder's mobiles carry cultural significance and can be seen in literary works of fiction. The Calder Game features Alexander Calder's Red Mobile as a crucial part of plot of the young adult mystery written by Blue Balliett and illustrated by Brett Helquist.
Although Calder's sculptures are not explicitly representational, many of his themes, symbols and shapes are related to the cosmos or suggestive of nature. During World War II, Calder continued to sculpt, adapting to a scarcity of aluminium during the war by returning to carved wood in a new open form of sculpture calle"constellations". Postwar, Calder began to cut shapes from sheet metal into evocative forms and hand-paint them in his characteristically pure hues of black, red, blue, and white. Calder created a small group of works from around this period with a hanging base-plate, for example Lily of Force (1945), Baby Flat Top (1946), and Red is Dominant (1947). He also made works such as Seven Horizontal Discs (1946), which, like Lily of Force (1945) and Baby Flat Top (1946), he was able to dismantle and send by mail despite the stringent size restrictions imposed by the postal service at the time. His 1946 show at the Galerie Louis Carré in Paris, composed mainly of hanging and standing mobiles, made a huge impact, as did the essay for the catalogue by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1951, Calder devised a new kind of sculpture, related structurally to his constellations. These"towers", affixed to the wall with a nail, consist of wire struts and beams that jut from the wall, with moving objects suspended from their armatures.
While not denying Calder's power as a sculptor, an alternate view of the history of twentieth-century art cites Calder's turning away in the early 1930s from his motor-powered works in favor of the wind-driven mobile as marking a decisive moment in Modernism's abandonment of its earlier commitment to the machine as a critical and potentially expressive new element in human affairs. According to this viewpoint, the mobile also marked an abandonment of Modernism's larger goal of a rapprochement with science and engineering, and with unfortunate long-term implications for contemporary art.