Friday, September 3, 2010

Designer of the Month: Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder, September's Designer of the Month, is someone for whom I have always had a very strong affinity. His work is immediately recognizable, with a style accessible to a wide audience. It seems to me that all of the artists, designers and art enthusiasts I know have some story about how Calder played a role in influencing either their own work or their feelings about art in general.

Calder in his Paris studio, 14 Rue de la Colonie, fall 1931. Photograph by Marc Vaux. Courtesy of the Calder Foundation.

Born into a family of celebrated, classically trained artists, Calder (1898-1976) developed a new method of sculpting: by bending and shaping wire, he essentially "drew" in three dimensions.[1] As a child, Calder was encouraged to create, but despite his apparent talents, he did not set out to become an artist. Instead, like so many other designers, Calder studied engineering in college (at the Stevens Institute of Technology) and graduated with his degree in 1919, at which point he took on various engineering and other odd jobs. [2] It wasn't until 1923 that Calder finally made the decision to pursue his art, moving to New York and enrolling at the Art Student's League.[3]

Alexander Calder, Dog and Duck, 1909. Brass sheet. These animals were made by Calder when he was 11, as a Christmas present for his parents. Courtesy of the Calder Foundation.

For this month's Designer of the Month discussion, we're going to be focusing on three specific areas of Alexander Calder's work: his Cirque Calder and wire sculptures in week 2, mobiles in week 3 and his "stabiles" and monumental sculpture in week 4.

[1] The Calder Foundation online, "Biography," (accessed September 2, 2010).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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