The classics can get tired. Even Alexander Calder, who produced those fun, brightly painted, mobiles that every child learns to love, is not exempt from my hard-set ennui. Faced with the prospect of a new Calder exhibit, I thought, frankly: been there; done that.
But I swallowed my reluctance and dragged myself in to good old 980 Madison for a breakfast lecture and press tour with Venus Over Manhattan founder, Adam Lindemann and head of the Calder Foundation, Sandy Rower.
Right now the Calder Foundation site boasts six concurrent exhibits of the master’s work: one in Los Angeles, two in New York, two in Pairs, and one in Düsseldorf, but I’d put money on the one at Venus Over Manhattan (VoM) as being the only one that could make me want to spend a little time.
Credit to Sandy Rower and Adam Lindemann who has a fondness for putting together unusual displays: he opened VoM with a literary-themed show in the dark, A Rebours, which referenced Joris-Karl Huysmann’s fin-de-siècle decadent novel with spot-lit works that defied past aesthetics. Since then he’s gone on to present an entire show on billboards, another show that featured a machine by artist Andra Ursuta that pitched rocks at a tiled wall, and, for Art Basel, an aside in Confiserie Schiesser, a café and chocolate shop that offered customers cognac and limited edition chocolates decorated in relief with figures by artist William Copely.
The current show Calder Shadows does not disappoint. Another spot-lit show in the dark, this one forces Calder’s works to share a stage with their own shadows as choreographed by Rower, who strategized the placement of the sculptures and light sources to emphasize the kinetic aspects of each piece.
Inspired by Lindemann’s observation, that photographs of Calder’s work often use shadows to highlight the depth and space which the artist considered to be a crucial element of each sculpture. He and Rower took a very aggressive approach to the installation, hanging some works waist high, others nearly out of view, and arranging lights off to the side to create distortions that exaggerate and foreshorten.
“Folks in the art world are conservative,” Lindemann says, “some took offense, as if I’d done something naughty.”
The show is a re-discovery of depth and movement, ironically stressed by the ways the shadow reflections work on a planer surface. As Rower pointed out, “When you see the works in the round, your eyes see them a bit at a time; when you see them in shadow, your mind registers their three dimensionality in one sweep.” Amazingly he’s spot on. It works.
Toward the end of our tour, Lindemann turns the lights on; the show disappears.
Venus Over Manhattan
980 Madison Avenue, New York City
November 4 – December 21, 2013
This article ©galleryIntell. Images courtesy of Venus over Manhattan.