Alexander Calder was a 20th-century artist who was one of the forefathers of kinetic art. He was the leading exponent of his time and made sculptures accessible and tactile unlike many of his predecessors. In his work, art and engineering coexist in perfect harmony, and that balance along with his creative genius changed contemporary art forever.
THE MAN WHO MADE ART MOVE
Alexander Calder was born in Lawnton, a small colonial town in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the grandson of a Scottish immigrant and sculptor A. Milne Calder, who learned his trade, in turn, from his father, a tombstone carver. In a very poetic fashion, the Calder family went from etching names onto the graves that lined the jagged hills and windswept sea-scapes of Aberdeen, to producing some of the worlds most revolutionary sculptures.
Alexander Calder’s childhood was speckled with art, his mother studied in Paris at the Sorbonne and worked as a professional portrait artist. Calder’s father, A. Stirling Calder, was a prominent sculptor and a true Pennsylvanian patriot, who provided the state with a number of its prestigious works such as the Swann Memorial Fountain. He also helped designed the Washington Square Arch in New York City.This Bohemian background would inspire Alexander Calder to innovate and create beautiful works of art, that unlike his ancestor’s pieces, could spring into motion and perform beautiful ballets of metal and stone.
Calder’s parents wanted him to become anything but an artist, so he decided to study mechanical engineering, where he excelled. However his passion for mathematics and geometry pushed him into art all the same, where he innovated by designing abstract polygonal sculptures that twisted and turned.
His works seemed to come alive and their unpredictable, elegant and often hypnotic movements earned him commissions to make monumental sculptures across the nation. One of his pieces entitled “Ellie” is used as the trophy for the winners of the National Magazine Awards, his “Homage to Jerusalem” monument sits proudly on Mount Herzl.
A LASTING INSPIRATION
His work has influenced the world we live in and touched us in ways we can’t even begin imagine, renowned for his work’s gracefulness and subtlety, his art was like a living hieroglyph, Calder’s very own language with which to interpret the world. He died shortly after an exhibition devoted to his life’s work, however he is anything but gone.
KINETIC ART TODAY
We write this ode to Alexander Calder to remember him, because he still lives in sculptures like Square Wave and almost every modern kinetic artist can claim to have drawn inspiration from his creative genius at some point. Ivan Black often cites him as an inspirational figure. He is in many ways a father and pioneer of kinetic art, and we wouldn’t be here without him.