Duke Magazine – Calder and Crew

Calder and Crew (A piece I wrote for the upcoming issue.)

New exhibit at Nasher presents seven sculptors with Calder

Duke Magazine Jan-Feb 2012

While Alexander Calder may conjure images of abstract sculptures and mobiles, his work is rarely considered as a source of inspiration for contemporary artists. But in the new exhibition Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy, thirty-four of Calder’s original works will be displayed alongside the work of seven contemporary sculptors to illustrate his influence on a new generation. The exhibit, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, will be on display the Nasher Museum from February 16 to June 17, 2012.

Though Nasher is the fourth and final stop on the exhibit’s tour, it will present new challenges both for the exhibit and the museum. While previous curators have kept Calder’s work separate from that of the other artists, “Sarah Schroth’s not going to do it that way,” says the senior curator of Nasher. She plans to make the connections between Calder and the other artists more explicit. Furthermore, the show is largely composed of sculptural pieces, which is unusual for Nasher, and will fill two of the three pavilions. The layout of the exhibit will also offer new ways to conceive of Nasher as an exhibition space. All of its walls will be painted gray, and all but three low dividing walls will be removed, leaving an open space like contemporary art galleries.

For the seven contemporary and international artists, this exhibition puts their work in a new light. Each artist has cited Calder as inspiration, and has had work compared to the sculptor. The exhibit is the first major museum exposure for two of the artists, Kristi Lippire and Jason Middlebrook, and both will serve as artists in residence at Duke during the spring. For Martin Boyce and Abraham Cruzvillegas, this exhibition is the largest American show for either international artist. For the remaining sculptors, Nathan Carter, Aaron Curry, and Jason Meadows, it never hurts to be compared to Calder, master of the mobile.

“I think it’s a re-visit or a re-viewing of a great old master, but in a new context,” says Schroth. She also notes that while Calder’s popularity has fluctuated since his death, one never tires of looking at his works. “This [exhibition] is a lesson in the fact that contemporary artists also look backward and also learn from the old masters,” she says. “There’s never been a show where young sculptors are juxtaposed with a master of modernism.”

The Nasher sees the exhibition as a part of its progression since the museum’s inception. “We have tried to vary [the composition of our schedule] and offer shows that appeal to popular tastes and to scholars,” says Schroth. The Calder show follows a chronological trajectory of high-profile exhibitions in the vein of El Greco and Picasso “We’re going into modernism,” she says.