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How Calder and Miró Discovered the Same Aesthetic While an Ocean Apart

A dual exhibition in New York celebrates the two artists' surprisingly similar starry compositions.

by Diana Shi
07 May 2017, 4:59am

Though divided by an ocean and World War II, two renowned 20th century artists managed to create remarkably similar work in their respective mediums. American artist Alexander Calder, widely known for his metal sculptures and hanging mobiles, and Spanish artist Joan Miró, a Surrealist with an early connection to the Dada community, entered complementary phases of their respective careers on opposite sides of the world. Creating hundreds of works between them, Calder and Miró were considered two of the foremost artists of the transformative 20th century. Now, a joint exhibition titled Calder / Miró: Constellations presented concurrently at Acquavella Galleries and Pace Gallery is uniting the astonishingly like-minded pieces in New York City.

Calder and Miró first made contact and formed a close friendship in Paris in 1928. The two artists found common ground as part of the alternative Montparnasse art scene, defined by its festive atmosphere for those hoping to escape capitalism and renew their zest for life. World War II splintered the artists' communication, and they came into unique periods of their artistic careers on opposite sides of the world. But they stayed true to a shared aesthetic, developing pieces that incredibly harnessed a similar scattered, abstract presentation.

Alexander Calder Constellation Mobile, 1943 wood, wire, string, and paint 53 x 48 x 35" (134.6 x 121.9 x 88.9 cm). Calder Foundation © 2016 Calder Foundation, New York /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy of Pace Gallery

Constellations is not only a stunning display of the artists' ability to think and act in creative alignment, but it also presents art as a trusted lens through which to understand a swath of history. Together, Calder and Miró's works speak to an influential train of cognition. In 1943, Calder began experimenting with the limits of his signature hanging mobiles. Due to metal deficiencies as a result of the war, the artist focused on creating wooden sculptures and installations. A departure from the hanging mobiles that had become associated with his name, Calder threaded dynamism and an understanding of negative space through his smaller-scale wooden pieces. During wartime, Calder received his own survey show at MoMA in 1943. He was the youngest artist to date to receive such a retrospective.

Miró painted his "constellations" in the early years of 1940. Including 23 gouache paintings, the particular series is celebrated as one of Miró's most defining body of works. Both parts of Constellations pay homage to these themes, which remained intact through both artists' creative output during World War II.

Check out more selections from the 60-piece show, Constellations, below:

Joan Miró Vers l'arc-en-ciel (Toward the Rainbow) March 11, 1941 Gouache and oil wash on paper 18 x 15 inches (45.7 x 38.1 cm) Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998 (1999.363.53) Photo: Malcom Varon / Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY © 2016 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Alexander Calder Constellation with Diabolo, c. 1943 wood, wire and paint 24-1/2" x 18-1/4" x 16" (62.2 cm x 46.4 cm x 40.6 cm). Calder Foundation © 2016 Calder Foundation, New York /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy of Pace Gallery

Joan Miró L'oiseau-migrateur (The Migratory Bird) May 26, 1941 Gouache and oil wash on paper 18 1/8 x 15 inches (46 x 38 cm) Private Collection © 2016 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Joan Miró Le crépuscule rose caresse le sexe des femmes et des oiseaux (The Pink Dusk Caresses the Sex of Women and Birds) August 14, 1941 Gouache and oil wash on paper 18 1/8 x 15 inches (46 x 38 cm) Private Collection © 2016 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Calder: Constellations is on view through June 30 at Pace Gallery, 32 East 57th Street, and Miró: Constellations will be on view through May 26 at Acquavella Galleries, 18 East 79th Street.

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