To accompany its current exhibition, Calder: Hypermobility (now through October 23, 2017), the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District commissioned musician Jim O’Rourke to create a sound walk. Drawing upon a wide variety of genres including jazz, modern, and field recordings, O’Rourke’s “Calder Walk” is comprised of a compilation of compositions by Ragnar Grippe, The Necks, Luc Ferrari, Wim Mertens and Loren Connors, among others. To accompany our photographs and essays on Calder:Hypermobility, we’d like to share a small slice of “Calder Walk” entitled “The Departing of a Dream, Part 4” by Loren Connors. Connors is an American experimental musician known internationally for his guitar improvisations and seminal contributions to avant blues and free jazz. He has released over 50 albums throughout his career. The 2:43 composition featured below is drawn from Departing of a Dream, a three-volume set released in the early 2000’s.
The grandson of the sculptor who created the statue of William Penn that sits atop Philadelphia’s City Hall, Alexander Calder gave sculpture movement through an often precarious balance of lines and spheres which came to be known in the 20th century as the mobile, an antecedent of technology’s hijacking of the word to describe handheld devices. As an engineer, perhaps Calder would have appreciated sharing the word – both mobiles rely upon precision and push and pull magic both out of and into thin air.
Calder: Hypermobility at the Whitney focuses on the kinetic energy of Calder’s sculptures. There are pieces on view that were mechanized for movement by the artist versus those that rely on even the faintest breeze. The later periodically receive an assist from a museum staffer with what appears to be a yardstick, giving a bit of a nudge to get them going. Quite honestly, there was something silly about watching crowds of people follow the staffer from mobile to mobile anxiously anticipating the tap and greeting the movement with oohs and aahs. But then, Calder appreciated the beauty and poetry of silly – he built a whole circus of silly. He stripped away artifice to reveal the purity of a line, a squiggle, a flat disc and, in his stabiles, created formidable structures that are simultaneously grounded to the earth and reaching for the sun.
What is best about Hypermobility? Spending time with an artist who seems like a dear old friend. Calder’s work is open, friendly, and instantly recognizable no matter when you saw it last. It waves and calls out to you from across the room in so many museums, across the canals in Venice at the Peggy Guggenheim, across gardens in St. Paul de Vence, Seattle, San Francisco and in so many more places we have traveled to through the years.
Surrounded by Calder’s of all shapes and sizes, also brings back memories of a friend I lost years ago who had bought pieces of jewelry from Calder when they were both young. She wore them because they were from a friend, they were a way for her to hold him close. Now, moving from mobile to mobile, thoughts of friends and travels spin around me creating poetry in motion.