Graphics Pioneer Herbert Matter's Rarely Seen Film Marks Sculptor Alexander Calder's Birth
Surrounded by the hypnotic rhythm of his own sculptures in motion, legendary artist Alexander Calder is shown working in his studio in this clip from visionary photographer and graphic designer Herbert Matter’s 1950 film Works of Calder, featuring a soundtrack by John Cage. Renowned for his ability to “sculpt with air,” Calder dedicated his seven-decade career to observing the complex nature of movement, pioneering kinetic sculptures, called mobiles, which prefigured the work of a diverse range of contemporary artists such as Richard Serra, James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson. “Time, space and the actuality of the moment are integral components of Calder’s oeuvre,” explains Alexander S. C. Rower, President of The Calder Foundation. “Perhaps Sartre most aptly described the intuitive nature of his pieces when he compared it to ‘a little hot jazz tune, unique and ephemeral, like the sky, like the morning.’” Premiered at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in January 1951 and virtually unseen since, the film came about after a chance encounter between Calder and multi-Emmy-winning actor Burgess Meredith in a cocktail bar three years earlier. The pair enlisted Matter to adapt his photomontage techniques to moving image, and create the surrealist portrait of the artist and his mobiles under the hazy light of Roxbury, Connecticut.
Works of Calder (1950). Directed and cinematography by Herbert Matter; produced and narrated by Burgess Meredith; music by John Cage. Sponsored by New World Films and Motion Picture Stages. Burgess Meredith and Museum of Modern Art, New York. [20 min., 16mm, color, sound (English)]
The Calder Foundation will present the full-length film, as well as several other historic Calder films, on calder.org beginning in Fall 2012.