The Calder Prize 2005–2015 Exhibition at PACE London Explores the Depth of Influence of Alexander Calder on Contemporary Art

January 25, 2016

They say what matters most is what you leave behind. Alexander Calder, a maverick of modernist art, left the future generations with not just his innovative work, but his legacy. Refusing to follow the existing hierarchies of material, Calder set a new, “mobile” course for sculpture as he introduced performative and kinetic qualities into a thus far static environment. The influence he had on contemporary art and young artists living in the 21st century is evident, and the Calder exhibition held at Pace Gallery in London portrays his impact. The Calder Prize 2005–2015 explores the resonance of Calder’s radical transformations through works of six young contemporary artists, the revered owners of the Calder Prize to date.

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Left: Alexander Calder - Untitled, 1942. Photograph by Kerry Ryan McFate. / Right: Alexander Calder - Trois pics (intermediate maquette), 1967. Photograph by Bill Jacobson.

Continuation of a Legacy

Given biannually, the award by the Calder Foundation inaugurated in 2005 offers $50,000 to artists who have made admirable work early in their careers, thus contributing to continuation of Calder’s legacy. Exhibiting their work at The Calder Prize 2005–2015, the six owners of the prize are: Tara Donovan (2005), Žilvinas Kempinas (2007), Tomás Saraceno (2009), Rachel Harrison (2011), Darren Bader (2013), and Haroon Mirza (2015). Being subjects to numerous worldwide solo exhibitions held at prestigious institutions, these artists validate the weight of Calder Prize and honour Alexander Calder by shaping contemporary art with their work. Envisioning new directions for sculpture, they keep engendering redefinition of art, stretching Calder’s influence far beyond his lifetime.

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Alexander Calder - Boomerangs, 1941

Embracing New Media

Among Calder’s most radical contributions is his segregation from the traditional approach to sculpture, and his invention of the “mobile” made possible by embracing industrial media including wire and sheet metal. Calder’s unorthodox approach to materials characterizes his sculptures, and is a common subject amongst Calder Prize laureates. Obvious similarities can be seen in the works of the first successor of his work, Tara Donovan, who unites readily available industrial materials into large assemblages resembling natural forms. Nature elements can also be seen in Tomás Saraceno’s Trace G64 B213 and Cumulus Filaments, creating a relationship between the representation of biological forms and their material’s industrial origins. A sense of dynamism and movement breathes from Haroon Mirza’s performances, site-specific installations and kinetic sculptures, as well as pure, dynamic forms of Žilvinas Kempinas. Much like Darren Bader, Rachel Harrison changes our perception of the sculpture by braking down its composition and investigates the conditions and materials.

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Left: Rachel Harrison - Avatar, 2010. Photo via / Right: Rachel Harrison - Avatar (detail), 2010

Movement on Display

The Calder Prize 2005–2015 will explore the impact of Alexander Calder by putting his work in perspective to the six contemporary artists. A selection of Calder’s large-scale works will be on display, including The Tree, 1960, Boomerangs, 1941, and Trois Pics (intermediate maquette), 1967, an eight feet tall black stabile which is a maquette for the monumental version which stands in the centre of Grenoble, France. Two bronze works from 1944, Fawn and Snag, and earlier works such as the untitled standing mobile from around 1942. Additionally, a number of works by the Calder Prize winning artists will be displayed, showing progression of his ideas through generations.

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Left: Žilvinas Kempinas - Flux, 2009 / Right: Žilvinas Kempinas - Flux, 2009

The Calder Prize 2005–2015 Exhibition at Pace in London

Showing how a man can truly live beyond his life span, the Calder exhibition showcases reinvention of sculpture and, fundamentally, art, that started with Alexander Calder and continues through a new generation of artists following in his footsteps. Presenting a number of works that will stand in line with those of Calder himself, The Calder Prize 2005–2015 exhibition opens on February 4 at Pace Gallery in London, and lasts until March 5, 2016.

Featured image: Žilvinas Kempinas - Flux, 2009; Rachel Harrison - Avatar, 2010, photo via; Alexander Calder - The Tree, 1960, photo via Alexander Calder - Untitled, 1942, Sheet metal, wire and paint, 13-12” x 8” x 6” (34.3 x 20.3 x 15.2 cm). Photo credit: Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, NY. © 2016 The Calder Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS London. Alexander  Calder, Boomerangs, 1941, Sheet metal, wire and paint, 5’1” x 8’ 7” x 1’ 8” (154.9 x 261.6 x 50.8 cm). © 2016 The Calder Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS London. Alexander Calder - Trois pics (intermediate maquette), 1967 Courtesy Pace London. © 2016 The Calder Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS London. Images courtesy of Pace Gallery. All images used for illustrative purposes only.

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