‘Calder’ by Jed Perl
WHO: Jed Perl
WHAT: CALDER | The Conquest of Space
The Later Years: 1940-1976
WHEN: Published by Knopf April 15, 2020
WHERE: The author lives in New York.
WHY: “A towering achievement…The monumental conclusion to a two-part biography of Alexander Calder (1898-1976), one of the most important figures in 20th-century sculpture.
“In this masterfully researched work, art historian Jed Perl has constructed an impressive monument that should raise the standards for future art biographies. The author celebrates his subject while effortlessly educating his audience; his text is at once erudite and accessible and achieves an exquisite balance between historical and theoretical readings.
“While the previous volume chronicled the genesis of Calder’s formal concepts, this one explores the life of an established artist as Calder was contemplating the permanence of his objects and his legacy. His career was catapulted by a series of outdoor commissions, as ‘people were beginning to recognize the power of his work to animate contemporary architectural spaces.’ As Perl writes, ‘if in the 1930s Calder was conquering time as he made sculptures move, in the 1960s he was conquering space as he created abstract sculptures of a size and an impact seldom seen before.’ Delicate mobiles evolved into ‘a new kind of urban landmark,’ massive artworks that pulsed with ‘muscular energy.’ Between Calder’s home in Roxbury, Connecticut, and his studio in rural France, Perl traces a steady sequence of major exhibitions and projects, from Calder’s MoMA debut in 1943 to his Whitney retrospective in 1976, which was on view the year he died of a heart attack.
“A rhapsodic historian, Perl presents each sculpture as a masterpiece, but he doesn’t shy away from criticism. He acknowledges that some considered Calder’s work ‘too easy’ or ‘chic throwaways,’ and he details the artist’s occasionally awkward commercial collaborations. Cumulatively, these episodes form a complete picture of an exceptional artist and all the significant developments of his oeuvre. Perl finds a vivacity between the artist and his many creations. ‘No longer were the figures in a painting or a sculpture what really mattered,’ he writes. ‘Now what mattered was the life of the work of art itself.’” –KIRKUS, a starred review
“Magisterial…An exhaustively researched and illuminating retrospective.”
–PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, a starred review
. . . . .
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
On June 14, 1969, a bright, cloudless Saturday, Alexander Calder and his wife, Louisa, were in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the dedication of La Grande vitesse, the enormous steel sculpture he had made for the plaza in front of the recently completed City Hall. Calder, who was seventy that June, had been dreaming about a new kind of public monument since soon after he became an abstract artist early in the 1930s. But it was only in the 1960s that those dreams were becoming realities. The times were nothing if not dramatic, and the unprecedented arrival of a colossal abstract sculpture in the heart of a conservative midwestern city was just one more small twist in a decade full of surprises. The summer of 1967 had become the Summer of Love; the anti-war movement had brought down a president; a month after the dedication of La Grande vitesse a man walked on the moon. Although much too old to be part of the decade’s youthquake, the Calders embraced the idealistic spirit of the 1960s. The immense abstract monuments that Calder was beginning to create were as bold, as wild, as brilliant, as strange, as idiosyncratic, and as unprecedented as the times in which they were produced. A good friend, thinking of Calder’s indefatigable experimentation, wrote that some of his new work suggested an “adventurous and carefree student-like march.”
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Knopf. 688 pages.
With more than 350 illustrations
$60 ISBN 978-0-451-49411-5
To interview the author, contact:
Jess Purcell | 212-572-2082 | firstname.lastname@example.org