Watch Alexander Calder Perform His “Circus,” a Toy Theatre Piece Filled With Amazing Kinetic Wire Sculptures

Alexan­der “Sandy” Calder (1898 – 1976) was one of Amer­i­ca’s fore­most mod­ern artists, inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized for his inven­tion of the mobile and his large-scale sculp­tures. At the age of eight, he start­ed work­ing with wire to make kinet­ic sculp­ture (one of his first was a small duck that would rock when pushed, done at the age of 11). Although he became an engi­neer and worked a vari­ety of jobs, he even­tu­al­ly enrolled in The Art Stu­dents League of New York. While there, he worked for the Nation­al Police Gazette, cov­er­ing, among oth­er things, the Rin­gling Broth­ers and Bar­num & Bai­ley Cir­cus­es.

Calder had a life­long fas­ci­na­tion with the cir­cus and, upon mov­ing to Paris in 1926, he cre­at­ed the Cirque Calder, a col­lec­tion of wire sculp­tures with com­plex mech­a­nisms allow­ing them to move and do var­i­ous tricks.  His first show­ing of his cir­cus was to fam­i­ly and friends, but his pop­u­lar­i­ty grew and he was soon giv­ing shows last­ing two hours in Paris and New York.  It was then that his artis­tic recog­ni­tion spread, and he enjoyed a pro­lif­ic career until his death in 1976. The video above comes to us via The Whit­ney Muse­um in NYC, which pre­sent­ed an exhi­bi­tion called “Alexan­der Calder: The Paris Years, 1926–1933” in 2008-09. And we also rec­om­mend watch­ing the 1961 short film, Le Cirque de Calder, where he talks about his toy-like cre­ations.

This is the first of hope­ful­ly many guest posts by Adri­enne Rum­sey.

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