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Alexander Calder, Les Années Parisiennes

Nick Forrester writing for VINGT paris

ART-ALEXANDERCALDER It’s worth climbing the five escalators to the top of the Centre Pompidou just for the view.  As one rises in the iconic exterior tube, breaking past the surrounding plain of seven story apartments, the entire west of Paris comes into view. To then step into the world of an American engineer and experimental sculptor might seem like an unusual leap, but Calder’s work in Paris has an extraordinary brand of “Frenchness” which is definitely worth a look.

The first thing one encounter’s is Calder’s surreal and truly bizarre circus. A projected video shows Calder himself animating the circus by operating the complex mechanisms on each piece. From acrobats to clowns, all of the circus creatures and characters are weirdly distorted and exaggerated in some way, so that viewing his performance is both amusing and terrifying.  Next door all the pieces lying dormant behind glass have taken on the somewhat strange innocence, like disused toys.

Also shown are Calder’s wire sculptures, set against and all-white background and spot lit, the shadow from each skeletal sculpture casting an uncanny mirror on the white wall behind it. The effect from viewing these sculptures in three dimensions is fantastic, and not something which could be gained from any number of photographs. Each time you move slightly round a work, or if it twists slightly in front of your eyes, you are greeted with an entirely new perspective.

The same can be said of the portraits which follow these sculptures in the exhibition. The effect of using wire to create a three dimensional portrait (or bust) is that against the neutral white background they look like two dimensional sketches. Yet as one moves around the portrait, the lines move and the portrait changes shape. This keeps us moving around Calder’s work, absorbed in a constant re-examination of each piece. Calder’s interest in creating motions, ‘just as one composes volumes spaces and colours’ here becomes clear, the viewers oscillate his sculptures just as the mobiles in the final room are held in a balanced orbit.

Ongoing now through July 20th, 2009.

Bonapart Paris apartments

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