Calder: Nonspace at Hauser & Wirth in DTLA

Hauser & Wirth is proud to present the gallery’s first exhibition in Los Angeles devoted to renowned artist Alexander Calder (1898 – 1976). Organized in collaboration with the Calder Foundation, New York, ‘Calder: Nonspace’ presents primarily monochromatic, abstract sculptures that create volumes out of voids. Works on view will fill the South Gallery, central open-air courtyard, and planted garden with thirty stabiles, mobiles, and standing mobiles weaving through a specially-designed environment created by Stephanie Goto. This unique installation has been conceived to reveal the sculptures’ subtleties and intuitive spatial relationships. ‘Calder: Nonspace’ also features five large-scale outdoor sculptures, transforming the industrial landscape of the Arts District into an oasis for contemplation of Calder’s monumental vision.

One of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, Calder transformed the very nature of sculpture with his invention of the mobile, introducing the fourth dimension of time and the actuality of real-time experience into the realm of sculpture. His prolific artistic output extended to wire sculpture, carved figures, stabiles, standing mobiles, oil paintings, works on paper, jewelry, furniture, and domestic objects, and grew to encompass monumental public commissions across the globe.

‘Calder: Nonspace’ takes its title from a 1963 essay by American novelist James Jones. Upon encountering a series of large-scale sculptures at the artist’s studio in Saché, France, Jones remarked, ‘[Calder] is willing to believe equally in a nonspace as well as in space. Because of this, his stabiles (and his mobiles as well) are able to fill a given space without occupying it …. He has taken a given space and, by molding beautiful elements of steel around it, caused it to become nonspace.’ Calder’s deep understanding of architectural and natural environments enabled him to reorder a viewer’s perception of the world around it. In thus challenging key tenets of modernist abstract art, he has significantly influenced generations of artists into the present day.

‘Calder: Nonspace’ will be on view through 6 January 2019. The exhibition is the artist’s first solo show in Los Angeles since the landmark 2013 exhibition, ‘Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Hauser & Wirth’s indoor-outdoor presentation begins in the South Gallery, featuring numerous examples of Calder’s revolutionary mobiles – an original form of modernist kinetic sculpture that the artist first realized in 1931 and explored continuously for the rest of his life. Among the mobiles on view, ‘Untitled’ (c. 1955) – a predominantly black sculpture with hints of red, yellow, and white – underscores the guiding principle of disparity in Calder’s sculpture. He addressed this idea on a number of occasions, writing in 1962: ‘My whole theory about art is the disparity that exists between form, masses and movement.’

Also on view in the South Gallery are two large-scale mobiles – ‘3 Segments’ (1973) and ‘Untitled’ (1976). Created in the last several years of the artist’s life, these works reveal Calder at his most deft, commanding space through a tangible sense of scale and gravity.

The indoor presentation additionally includes a variety of small-scale models, or maquettes; this type of work, first materializing in 1936, afforded Calder the ability to three-dimensionally sketch works in metal that were intended for enlargement. Three of the maquettes on view – ‘4 Planes in Space’ (1955), ‘The Tall One’ (1968), and ‘Feuille d’arbre’ (1973) – can be compared to their full-scale counterparts, two of which are installed in the gallery’s outdoor courtyard and garden. The intermediate maquette ‘Trois pics’ (1967) is displayed here alongside its small- scale model (its monumental equivalent, nearly forty feet tall, can be found in Grenoble, France).

Enlarged from a small-scale stabile made two decades earlier, the intermediate maquette ‘Morning Cobweb’ (1967) is a model for the nearly thirty-foot tall sculpture featured in Calder’s 1969 retrospective at the Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence, France. In making this site-specific work, Calder took inspiration from the concrete roof of the Fondation’s museum building, designed by Josep Lluís Sert. He viewed the two spikes of his sculpture – a meditation on the two-dimensional plane shifted into the third dimension – as complementing the two half- pipes of Sert’s roof.

Outdoors and presented for the first time in the United States, ‘Feuille d’arbre’ (1974), a standing mobile over twenty-feet tall, is positioned directly across from a native Southern California oak tree. In this juxtaposition, Calder’s sculpture is neither an imitation nor an abstraction of nature; instead, it exudes an inherent naturalness. For ‘Dent de sagesse’ (1964), Calder pierced the sheet metal elements of various planes, creating moments of stillness and absence within the work’s angular, shifting presence. Large-scale stabiles, such as ‘The Tall One’ (1968) and ‘The Pagoda’ (1963), relate to retinal space by acknowledging that our experience of them changes depending on our location, thus engendering complex, active encounters.

In the mid-1930s, the vast landscape of Calder’s property in Roxbury, Connecticut inspired him to create outdoor sculptures. These early projects, in turn, prompted the development of his large-scale works as well as a wide range of international commissions and permanent installations. James Jones’ observation that Calder’s sculptures ‘fill a given space without occupying it’ astutely describes the artist’s extraordinary ability to create works that transform their environments.

Hauser & Wirth is located at 901 East 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013.  Open Tuesday thru Sunday from 11AM - 6 PM. Closed on Mondays.  For more information, visit HauserWirth.com.