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To enter into Alexander Calder’s world is a fascinating glimpse into a realm of fun and fantasy. Currently on exhibition at the AGO is Alexander Calder: The Paris Years which affords the viewer a rare treat of his miniature circus that the sculptor fabricated from found materials and performed in front of live audiences. When Calder was in Paris in the early 1920’s he befriended many artists from which he drew much inspiration. His lifelong fascination with the circus led him to construct the simple yet intriguing true to life mechanical moving performers during his stay, which delighted both young and old for many years. 

When one thinks of this artist, you immediately conjure up images of hanging mobiles designed in primary colours floating effortlessly above your head. However, this gregarious man shows us the kid within in presenting the characters and animals of the big top. Included in the exhibition is a video of the artist performing the circus in front of children alongside his preliminary drawings and sketches, traveling suitcases, mobiles and stabiles and wire sculptures. Do not miss the very short video portraying Josephine Baker, the sensual chanteuse who captivated Paris in the day and who was a favourite of Calder. 

calder-circus

Image courtesy of artandculture.com

“Sandy” (as he was known to his friends) went on over the years to construct even larger mobiles and stabiles that adorned buildings and public areas and are now iconic symbols of the artist’s enduring legacy. His engineering background gave him the impetus and knowledge to construct these mobiles, some with differing centres of gravity but which are set into motion with the slightest of breezes.

 The artist was readily accomplished in drawing and painting but upon meeting Mondrian in Paris it gave him the shock that set into motion the idea that art need not be static. As he states, “Why must art be static? The next step is sculpture in motion.” Indeed he succeeded in realizing this possibility.

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