Alexander Calder’s Circus, Play Art


While Michelangelo drew me into the Seattle Art Museum last month, their Alexander Calder exhibit (runs through April 11) may well have rivaled the master’s scribbles. The thick black circles on the floor around the bigger mobiles, that you weren’t supposed to step past, were a tad odd, but overall what’s not to like about art that you’re encouraged to blow on? Art that moves. In the back though, there was one of the more entertaining bits. They had a film playing Cirque Calder, which drew a few of the polite chortles that they allow in museums.

Since then I found the videos on YouTube. I love watching this grown man, and not a young man at that, playing with these elaborate dolls that he built himself. He gets really into it, in poor French no less. Calder explains his thoughts around the circus near the start at 1:12, but my favorite part of this clip is the Western stuff at 2:42. And who is that woman at 3:44? Probably his wife wondering what she got herself into.

It’s interesting that Calder worked on and amused himself with toys before he started on the mobiles that have since become synonymous with his name. Isn’t this what art is really about? That thing you do when everything else gets out of the way. Play. I used to have a post-it note stuck to my desk that read: YOU ARE PLAYING! Eventually it felt a bit too stern, so I took it down. Did I really need to shout about it?

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