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Gagosian Quarterly

August 26, 2014

alexander calder: gouaches

While Alexander Calder is regarded as the originator of mobile art works, his works on paper exhibit a mastery of two-dimensional abstraction. With a show of his gouaches closing in the Davies Street, London gallery, Derek Blasberg celebrates some of the artist’s pieces that didn’t require a welding helmet.

Alexander Calder, Occident, 1975, gouache and ink on paper, 29 ½ × 43 ¾ inches (74.9 × 109.9 cm)

Alexander Calder, Occident, 1975, gouache and ink on paper, 29 ½ × 43 ¾ inches (74.9 × 109.9 cm)

Derek Blasberg

Derek Blasberg is a writer, editor, and New York Times best-selling author. In addition to being the executive editor of Gagosian Quarterly, he is the head of fashion and beauty for YouTube. He has been with Gagosian since 2014.

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Alexander Calder (1898–1976) once said, “I paint with shapes.” While the American artist is best known for his suspended abstract mobiles, it is his two-dimensional works of art that comprise two shows at Gagosian galleries in New York and London. (The New York show, at 980 Madison Avenue, runs May 8–June 14; the London show, at 17–19 Davies Street, runs June 10–August 29.)

Focusing on works done in gouache on paper, which was Calder’s preferred two-dimensional medium, the exhibitions will feature works from the 1940s as well as larger-scale works Calder created at the end of his life. At the time of their creation, Calder was splitting his time between homes in the United States and France. According to Millicent Wilner, who organized the Gagosian shows, “the influence of Calder’s contemporaries can be seen in the gouaches as he delved further into modernism and abstraction. We see the simplicity of colors coming from Mondrian, the playfulness of form from Miró, who was a great friend of Calder’s, as well as traces of Surrealism in a number of works.”

Alexander Calder: Gouaches

Alexander Calder, Untitled (Costume Design for Mêtaboles) VIII, 1969, gouache and ink on paper, 15 ⅜ × 11 ½ inches (39.1 × 29.2 cm)

The works in both exhibitions lend an insight into Calder’s working method, showing us not only how the artist came to create the mobiles and sculptures that have become synonymous with his name, but also how simple silhouettes informed his artistic vocabulary. While some of the works relate to completed and uncompleted structures, the gouaches exist as works of art in their own right. “They are perfect two-dimensional representations of Calder’s creative focus. His concern with primary color, abstraction, motion, and playfulness is evident,” says Wilner.

“The gouaches allowed him a much quicker, freer method of creation,” she observes. An integral part of Calder’s diverse and prolific oeuvre, these works reflect the ease with which the artist approached his creative process.

All artwork by © 2014 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Alexander Calder, Flying Dragon, 1975, installation view, Place Vendôme, Paris © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Thomas Lannes

Behind the Art
Alexander Calder: Flying Dragon

In this video, Gagosian director Serena Cattaneo Adorno celebrates the installation of Alexander Calder’s monumental sculpture Flying Dragon (1975) in Paris at Place Vendôme, detailing the process and importance of this ambitious project.

Alexander Calder poster for McGovern, 1972, lithograph

The Art History of Presidential Campaign Posters

Against the backdrop of the 2020 US presidential election, historian Hal Wert takes us through the artistic and political evolution of American campaign posters, from their origin in 1844 to the present. In an interview with Quarterly editor Gillian Jakab, Wert highlights an array of landmark posters and the artists who made them.

Black-and-white photograph of Alexander Calder and Margaret French dancing on a cobblestone street while Louisa Calder plays the accordion in front of a large window outside of James Thrall Soby’s house, Farmington, Connecticut, 1936

An Alphabetical Guide to Calder and Dance

Jed Perl takes a look at Alexander Calder’s lifelong fascination with dance and its relationship to his reimagining of sculpture.

Featuring Joan Jonas’s Mirror Piece 1 (1969) on its cover.

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2020

The Summer 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Joan Jonas’s Mirror Piece 1 (1969) on its cover.

Charlotte Perriand in her studio on place Saint-Sulpice, Paris, 1928. The hands holding a plate halolike behind her head are Le Corbusier’s.

The New World of Charlotte Perriand

Inspired by a visit to the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s exhibition Charlotte Perriand: Inventing a New World, William Middleton explores the life of this modernist pioneer and her impact on the worlds of design, art, and architecture.

Calder: Sculpting A Life

Calder: Sculpting A Life

The first authorized biography of Alexander Calder was published this past fall. Biographer Jed Perl and Alexander “Sandy” S. C. Rower, president of the Calder Foundation, discuss the genesis of the book, the nature of genius, and preview what’s to come in the second volume with the Quarterly’s Wyatt Allgeier.

Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018

Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018

The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.

Georg Baselitz working on Madame Demoisielle weit weg von der Küste (Madame Demoiselle a long way from the coast)

Georg Baselitz: Pulling Up the Image

In celebration of five recent projects related to Georg Baselitz, Richard Calvocoressi, Max Hollein, and Katy Siegel speak with the artist and look at his prolific career.

Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris

Patrick Seguin

Andisheh Avini speaks with the Paris gallerist and publisher about his passion for architecture, design, and art.

Dennis Hopper, 1969. Photo: Columbia Pictures/Album/Alamy Stock Photo.

Dennis Hopper’s Taos Ride

Douglas Dreishpoon reflects on speaking with Hopper at the Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, New Mexico, in 2009.

Bill Gunn, 1982. Photo: © Marshall “Tres” Johnson

Cosmic Freeze Frames: A Poetics of Bill Gunn

Carlos Valladares discusses the films of the pioneering director.

Mercedes Matter with students at the New York Studio School. Photo: Herbert Matter, courtesy the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

Game Changer
Mercedes Matter

Lauren Mahony and Michael Tcheyan pay homage to the founder of the New York Studio School.