RAISED at a time when Europe was still the center of the art world, and coming of age as New York was beginning to replace it, the sculptor Alexander Calder can seem about as “East Coast” as a strand of ivy on a stone chimney. But he spent three crucial early years in Pasadena, CA, where his parents ran with the artists of the Arroyo scene and others in Los Angeles. (This was before Hollywood existed, and before the car and other things would make LA a huge city — Pasadena was still in some ways the intellectual and cultural capital of the Southland.)
My new story for Los Angeles magazine’s website — here — looks at the great sculptor’s brief but formative time here. The piece is spurred by a just-opened exhibit at the Hauser & Wirth gallery in downtown Los Angeles.
Did not have room to discuss the fact that despite the fact that Calder’s work is much easier to see on the East Coast (where I used to see it as a kid at the National Gallery) and Europe, the LA Co Museum of Art commissioned an important and idiosyncratic piece for its opening on Wilshire, and Calder did a wonderful poster for the opening. (His sculptor father designed some important work here as well.)
Most of my story comes from a conversation with longtime art critic Jed Perl, whose work I’ve followed for years. Even as a fan, I was knocked out by how good his new Calder bio is — Calder: The Conquest of Time, which runs through 1940, is insightfully written and exquisitely illustrated. Very eager to see the second and final installment. One of the many pleasant surprises — though it makes perfect sense — in volume one is that Calder was friends with Malcolm Cowley, author of the Lost Generation chronicle Exile’s Return, and one of my literary heroes.