December 8, 2008 / 6:20 PM / 11 years ago

Museum shows Calder mobiles don't have to be big

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art could be titled “Honey, I shrunk the Calder!”

Alexander Calder's "Flower Necklace" is seen during the media preview of his jewelry exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York December 8, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

U.S. sculptor Alexander Calder may be best known for large-scale mobiles, some the size of planes, but the artist also worked with much smaller objects.

A collection of his jewelry, which includes brooches, necklaces, bracelets and earrings that Calder often presented as personal gifts to friends and family, goes on display on Tuesday.

It is the first exhibit dedicated to his mostly small-scale works, though some of the pieces on display are large enough that wearing them would qualify as exercise.

The show includes about 90 works, the most important among them a 1940 brass wire necklace with a spiral pattern, according to the museum’s associate curator Jane Adlin.

“There was this other part of Calder, whose art is so well known,” Adlin said.

Calder, who died in 1976, made some 1,800 pieces of jewelry over his lifetime. His earliest, created when he was only eight, adorned his sister’s dolls, but he continued making jewelry throughout his life.

His earliest works were made from copper wire but the artist also worked with brass, steel, ceramics and glass. Some of the works, such a pair of 1942 silver and steel earrings are, essentially, wearable mobiles.

Calder, inspired by Celtic art, often used spiral patterns to represent longevity and continuity, Adlin said. The museum’s collection does include a full-scale Calder mobile, as well as his sculptures and drawings; visitors can venture elsewhere in the museum to compare Calder’s small pieces with his large ones.

Some of the exhibit’s pieces show the artist’s sense of humor: for example, Calder made a fish brooch for someone whose last name was Pond.

“He balanced that humor with a sense of pride in his work and a seriousness,” Adlin explained. “He always carried his pliers and his hammer in his back pocket, and he would take wire out and start making (jewelry).”

Among the recipients were Peggy Guggenheim, a collector; French actress Jeanne Moreau; and artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

Many pieces were made for his wife Louisa, whom Calder met on a transatlantic crossing in 1929. A large black-and-white photo of Mrs. Calder, wearing a ring made by her husband, hangs in one of the galleries.

The exhibit continues until March 1, 2009.

Reporting by Nick Zieminski; editing by Patricia Reaney

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