Alexander Calder, Modern from the Start

Recorded June 2021. Led by Sculptor Garth Evens, and joined for the talk by American sculptor Joel Shapiro and Sculpture Forum regulars Jock Ireland and Brandt Junceau. Sculpture Forum examines the work of Alexander Calder in the context of the show, Modern from the Start, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Video and editing by Rachael Bohlander.


“I just think—I’ve always thought the work was phenomenal—and I guess what really interests me about Calder is the way the work touches down, the way the work is conceived, that it somehow, you don’t have a real sense of struggle. At least I don’t see that—which I admire in the work. It just seems to come from some other place. It’s not determined by architecture. It’s not determined by—although he uses planes, it’s not determined by the floor, the table, or the wall—and of course he uses the ceiling, and he uses the wall, and he uses the ground—but it doesn’t seem to be a determining factor in the way the form is generated. It seems to be much more interior. Maybe—I know this sounds crazy—maybe that’s sort of the way Degas made sculpture—versus Rodin who’s so ponderous and heavy at least for me—I think he’s great—but it is sort of always justified—his own burden—by ego. Calder seems to avoid all that. He’s coming from a very magical place. Maybe it’s his background in engineering, a real deep understanding of structure. This room at the Modern is just beautiful, the way all the work touches down. It doesn’t really deal with the space. It seems to engage itself in its own world which it communicates. I think he’s great. He wasn’t so popular among the artists my age. There was a show at the Whitney years ago. People were surprised that I liked Calder. I don’t know where the mindset came from. But it’s joyful. It’s buoyant. It’s inventive.” –JOEL SHAPIRO

“That’s nice to hear. I can see that, and I can sense that. At the same time, I found the way that the work didn’t seem to engage gravity, engage space, engage structure—that it seemed to have a kind of underlying whimsy that I found—I ended up feeling irritated.” –GARTH EVANS

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