CALDER: UN EFFET DU JAPONAIS

HAPPENINGText: Alma Reyes

He published 141 animal drawings in his manual Animal Sketching in 1925 as a student at the Art Students League in New York. Some of these illustrations are exhibited, and define Calder’s use of calligraphic brushwork similar to sumi-e.


Alexander Calder, Black Beast, 1940, Photo: Ken Adlard

Another giant sculpture indicative of the animal creature is found at the final hall, Black Beast (1940). The bold black presence is muscular, powerful and utterly monumental. This creation ushered forthcoming outdoor sculptures in the 1960s and 1970s.


Installation view of Calder: Un effet du japonais, Alexander Calder, Seven Black, Red and Blue, 1947 / My Shop, 1955/ Untitled, c. 1932, Photo: Tadayuki Minamoto

Against a long red wall, blended with the black ceiling and white walls, repeating the basic colors of Calder’s works, hangs two significant paintings. Seven Black, Red and Blue (1947) typifies an abstract composition of fluid shapes. My Shop (1955) grasps the artist’s studio interior in Connecticut. These two works were exhibited at Nihonbashi Takashimaya Department Store in 1956, marking Calder’s fist public exposition in Japan.


Alexander Calder, Un effet du japonais, 1941, Gift of Alexander S. C. Rower in memory of Howard Rower, 2022

A module in simple and elegant wood-paneled walls stages black metal and wire objects and hanging mobiles. Among them is the stunning standing mobile Un effet du japonais (1941), exuding the Japanese sense of grace and minimalism.

Calder started developing kinetic sculptures in 1931. In 1932, he created his first dangling mobile. He had been drawn constantly toward the dimension of moving objects since he was a child. At eleven years old, he gifted his parents with dog and duck sculptures that rocked back and forth when tapped. In Untitled (1933), he carved directly into wood, and suspended three wooden elements from dowels connected by strings. This mobile expressed independent movement, immateriality and variable scales.

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