Calder's Circus

Alexander Calder's fascination with the circus began in his mid-twenties, when he published illustrations in a New York journal of Barnum and Bailey's Circus, for which he held a year's pass. It was in Paris in 1927 that he created the miniature circus celebrated in this film - tiny wire performers, ingeniously articulated to walk tightropes, dance, lift weights, and engage in acrobatics in the ring. The Parisian avant-garde would gather in Calder's studio to see the circus in operation. It was, as critic James Johnson Sweeney noted, 'a laboratory in which some of the most original features of his later work were to be developed.' This film exudes the great personal charm of Calder himself, moving and working the tiny players like a ringmaster, while his wife winds up the gramophone in the background. The Circus is now housed at the Whitney Museum in New York.

Biographical Details
Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was, before the American Abstract Expressionists achieved fame, America's best-known modern artist. His constructed sculptures, whether fixed 'stabiles' or moving 'mobiles', were colorful, witty, inventive and celebratory. Visiting Paris between the wars, Calder became associated with Dada and Surrealist artists such as Duchamp, Tanguy and Arp, and with strong abstract or near-abstract artists like Miro, Léger and Mondrian. He also remained very American, however, and in contact with American artists such as Steinberg.

Credits

Director: Carlos Vilardebo
Presenter: Alexander Calder:

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Catalog number #621

19 minutes Color

Age Range: 5 to Adult

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