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Monday, 13 July 2015

Breakfast @ Tate - Alexander Calder opening on 11 November 2015

Alexander Calder
Antennae with Red and Blue Dots
c1953
Aluminium and steel wire
object: 1111 x 1283 x 1283 mm
Purchased 1962
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2002


[UPDATE – 22/7/15] See below for the update of this post.

#Africa #Brazil #Paris #NewYork #Sculpture #Performance #Circus #CosmicShapes

While an existential debate is going on on NME FB page about whether The Longpigs are still remembered or whether Oasis were an Indie band – yes but no but yes but no – coz they were signed on Indie label Creation but they were Britpop and in Britpop, there is pop, so they were pop, but originally Indie is not a genre but small labels being independent, and yet “... music fits into three categories: Pop, Folk, and Art. Those are the three main genres of music - jazz, funk, rock and indie all fit into Pop...” ... but then again, the 90’s were much more than what the NME list is offering... me think... I’m dealing with press officers’ emails that go “am drowning in emails and I need Outlook coz I sent your Qs to Hypoxia's lady and ADF three weeks ago but I only saw your email yesterday, so I am sending the Qs now...” sounds like the disorganised type... and on the two occasions I met the HeadOfPublicityPressMarketing, it jumped at my face reminding me how French I am... coz it perhaps likes the 400 types of cheese country where I was born (or not?) - “Your piece on Amy is fantastic, but we will send you to a more suitable screening next time... we haven’t got any at present” says 25 year old Organic’s accuntant! Or the New Wave Film’s PRs who crowned themselves Phd in psychology and go on and on about my default state while convinced they have invited me to all screenings for the past 10 months and I ignored them... and they admit “it falls through our fishnet sometimes”... 10 months in a row? They delete me coz at the end... I am no mainstream and they probably can’t waste their time with #JeSuisCharlie people... To them: “You are not national (press)” and they did too many favours and that’s it - #GoodByeImTheWeakestLink!

Of course, I’m glad when Sonic Cathedral artists are grateful and great, but it’s so rare when you are an independent media outlet and don’t want to play the game of the rough tongue/brown nose lady!

 In six hours... hopefully I’ll have the energy to get up for “Please join us for breakfast overlooking the river Thames at Tate Modern on Monday 13 July, followed by a presentation by Tate Modern’s Director of Exhibitions, Achim Borchardt-Hume, discussing key themes and revealing details of the exhibition. Opening on 11 November 2015, Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture will be the first major UK exhibition of American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976) for over fifty years...”

After a “good” five hours sleep, I woke up before alarm clock buzzed off. I had never been to Tate Modern’s sixth floor: an exquisite shades of silver like view across sky and water mixing a Jeff Wall panorama style where 300 years old St Paul Cathedral greets the Millennium Bridge; a shy colourful oasis rooftop splash à la David Hockney distracts agreeably the spectator (hello Jacques Tati).
Most importantly was the refreshing talk given by its curators who were passionate about Alexander Calder’s upcoming exhibition to be sheltered in XIX Century ex coal-fired power station.

In 2009, I was invited to view Alexander Calder: Les années parisiennes, 1926-1933 in Le Centre Pompidou in Paris. The exhibition reminded of my childhood in Africa, more specifically West Africa where kids of my age fabricated their own toys out of found objects and twisted wires to make car or doll shapes as in The Circus Scene that will be displayed. The memory or words I have kept of that five months show are shadows, lightness, choreography, humour and playful.
As explained (in French) in Calder mini doc as well as at the breakfast at The Tate, Alexander Calder was a XX Century ground-breaking artist whose sculptures were not heavy and “rooted” (not made out of wood, plaster, marble etc.). Instead, his creations or silhouettes were made of light metal, often suspended / mobile in space and usually rotating slowly in ambient air devoid of volume and depth like Le Lanceur de Poids that will be also displayed at Tate.
His transparent metal masks were of something magical since their shadows changed its visages on walls: nothing gothic or scary here, but a simple wonder of face morphing while staring at it. Like his contemporaries, the kinetic sculpture pioneer had a great interest in all things African art without ever going to the continent. He paid great tribute to Josephine Baker while he lived in Paris and celebrated her dancing moves and “primitive” clothes – on display also via Aztec Josephine Baker. However, it does make wonder if that interest in African life could also come from the Human Zoos that existed in many European capitals (and New York too) from late XIX century through the 50’s, and give a better justice to those enclosed in their “natural environment” as to demystify them off prejudice, perhaps like Giacometti (whose show comes also late 2015 in NPG)?

Although the word cabaret has been existed since the XVI century in France, it’s only in late XIX century that cabarets combined singing/dancing and... political satire in Montmartre. Other countries in Europe followed early XX century and it is perhaps with no surprise that artists like Egon Schiele were inspired by these bohemian café concerts in order to produce their “dancing paintings”.
North American mechanical engineer Calder was surely not indifferent to movements when Duchamp coined him as a mobile sculptor, whose work at Tate is titled as Performing Sculpture (blending perfectly with some Tate Modern dance programs) and will bring over 100 key works, coinciding the opening of the exhibition with the date of his death on 11 November.
Like a puppeteer, Calder seemed to be searching for the point in time when the body weights nothing... balancing in the air its primary colors or “empty” shapes. Comes to mind some more contemporary artists: Damian Ortega with his Field of Vision (or an eye if placed “properly”); the absolute genius “acrobat” Yoann Bourgeois who also gets inspired by the relationship between a body and a physical force... a suspension point.

Alexander Calder in his Roxbury studio, 1941
Photo credit: Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, NY
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2014

Visiting Piet Mondrian and Joan Miró studios early 30’s in Paris, Alexander Calder adopted primary colors, geometric and “cosmic shapes”. On display will be Triple Gong; Antennae with Red and Blue Dots; A Universe that got Albert Einstein raving or being hypnotized for a few quarters of an hour...

After WWII, Calder travelled in Latin America and was very popular among architects and sculptors. In 1948, he donated his iconic mobile Black Widow to the Instituto dos Arquitetos do Brazil. For the time since the donation of his visual metaphor for a new and free social order, the ambitious scale piece will leave its natal place to greet London gracefully for six months. A piece that Alexander S.C. Rower, President of the Calder Foundation said: “Black Widow not only embodies my grandfather’s sophisticated vocabulary on a grand scale but also the boundless Brazilian energy that left such an enduring impact on him. I am thrilled to see it travel outside of the country for the first time... a watershed moment, thanks to Tate’s visionary efforts.”
Proof that London has still a lot to offer with people animated for what they do.

Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture.
11 November 2015 – 3 April 2016;
Tate Modern, Level 3

Sybille Castelain for babylondonorbital@gmail.com
#DerekBirkett #Bjork #LeeValley #ShiningPath #LimaPeru #MatthewBarney = https://www.facebook.com/sybille.castelain/posts/10153257875681144

I know I’m getting tired of London Mister Samuel Johnson, but I do relate to most points, especially #6 #19 #26 thanks to Time Out.