Calder Smartphone Tour: Constellation with Red Knife

With his typical artistic materials in short supply at the height of World War II, Alexander Calder sought out alternatives. His resourcefulness led to the debut of an important series of carved wood and wire forms in 1943.

In 1943, James Johnson Sweeney and Marcel Duchamp, who were in the midst of curating a major retrospective of Calder’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, proposed calling these new sculptural works ‘Constellations.’

“[The Constellations] had a suggestion of some kind of cosmic nuclear gases—which I won’t try to explain,” Calder once noted. “I was interested in the extremely delicate, open composition.”

Gaze upon Calder’s Constellation with Red Knife by visiting Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. Then, tune in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour to learn more about the artist’s universe of constellations—along with his passion for woodcarving—via our SoundCloud.

Constellation with Red Knife, 1943

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Constellation with Red Knife is a singular work in this exhibition that really highlights the assemblage of carved wooden forms.  

NARRATOR: José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: As a youth, Calder was experienced with carving with wood, and it’s a material that actually is found in a lot of his sculptural practice.  

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He was fascinated by not just the look of the wood, but the particular kind of grain of the wood, the way a grain would be straight or wavy and have characteristics.

NARRATOR: Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: The central object, which is the tallest piece of wood in the composition, is kind of the shape of a palette knife like a painter might use to mix paint.

NARRATOR: The work is one of a series called Constellations. The name didn’t come from Calder himself but from the artist Marcel Duchamp, and the curator James Johnson Sweeney. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder referred to them as an open form composition like some kind of nuclear gases, and then he said, “But I won’t try to explain.” 

NARRATOR: The work may reflect Calder’s interest in time and space, but it is important to note that he wasn’t concerned with the observable universe (the sun, moon, earth, etc.). Rather, he was describing a universe. Or rather, the universal—an exploration of the unifying force posited by physicists today as string theory. 

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: When one thinks about constellations, there is an assumption that this is a specific reference to planets and stars and elements in our known universe. However, Calder’s really interested in a universe, his universe. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: They are objects tied together with these wire lines, existing in space in three dimensions.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of “Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection,” Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Yellow Stalk With Stone

“Since the beginning of my work in abstract art, and even though it was not obvious at that time, I felt that there was no better model for me to work from than the Universe. Spheres of different sizes, densities, colors and volumes, floating in space, surrounded by vivid clouds and tides, currents of air, viscosities and fragrances—in their utmost variety and disparity.”

– Alexander Calder

Yellow Stalk with Stone is a prime example of Calder’s experimental approach to sculpture, embracing both the transcendent and the ordinary. During the artist’s lifetime, the artwork was exhibited globally with notable stops at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museu de Arte Moderna in Brazil, and the Museo de Bellas Artes in Venezuela.

Despite its global adventures, the standing mobile highlights the important role of found objects in Calder’s oeuvre. Its titular stone—found by the artist on a walking meditation around his property in Roxbury, Connecticut—invites a dialogue between found, manipulated, and artificial materials in art.

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection closes Sunday, August 4 at SAM! Don’t miss your chance to see over 45 of the iconic American artist’s renowned works (including Yellow Stalk with Stone) and explore the exhibition’s free smartphone tour from the museum’s galleries. Plus, you can listen to all 16 stops of the tour on your own time via our SoundCloud.

Yellow Stalk with Stone, 1953

NARRATOR: Calder was a truly international artist. During his lifetime, this work was exhibited multiple times, including in Brazil, New York, and Venezuela. But the stone referred to in the title came from close to home; he picked it up near his studio in Roxbury, Connecticut. 

The stone creates a dialogue with the man-made elements of the sculpture. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder’s process of creation and composition was very intuitive. It was in the moment. It was in the spirit of the moment. It wasn’t something that was planned. He didn’t make diagrammatic plans for creating his sculptures.

NARRATOR: It’s a way of working that resonates with artist Kennedy Yanko.  

KENNEDY YANKO: He’s clearly thinking in a way where he needs to explore something, where he needs to understand something in his own way, to his own hand. Maybe he was in the studio, and he just had the stone and just went and placed it on there or he had been thinking about it for a while and then placed it on there, and that moment, that decision is what transforms the piece into what you wanted it to be.

NARRATOR: Found objects have an important role in Calder’s work. José Diaz.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: I really hope that visitors will walk through this exhibition and see Calder through an ecological lens. He was certainly resourceful—you’ll notice that there’s works that incorporate wood, rocks, bits of material, or discarded objects—but also the fact that Calder could make art from the most ordinary materials and make something so complex, yet so beautiful.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Animated Coat Hanger

A material as humble and mundane as wire proved inspiring for Alexander Calder, who used it to create three-dimensional line drawings. During the late 1920s, he sculpted a range of wire acrobats, performers, animals, and portraits of famed figures of the day, including Fernand Léger, Josephine Baker, and Joan Miró.

These ‘drawings in space’ enthralled the international avant-garde for their projected shadows, captured voids, and challenged perceptions. His radical objects not only upended space through their transparent volumes, but also presented the reality of motion through vibrating wire lines and the inclusion of actual moving parts. As a result of these works, Calder was lauded as Le roi du fil de fer, or the king of wire.

Although intimate in size, Animated Coat Hanger speaks volumes about Calder’s ingenuity and resourcefulness with wire. The work’s title implies that a coat hanger was used to sculpt the profiled subject, but that is not the case. Perhaps the title is a nod to the artists from the Dada movement, who used the choice of selection to create readymades from preexisting common objects, such as hangers.

Tune in to the ninth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection to hear SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz and New York-based artist Kennedy Yanko share their perspectives on this simple yet surprising wire sculpture. Explore all 16 stops of the audio tour now via our SoundCloud or in our galleries by scanning the QR code next to select artworks on view.

Animated Coat Hanger, 1927

NARRATOR: Wire sculpture was Calder’s first great invention. He removed mass from sculpture and introduced transparency as well as gentle movement through vibration.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Animated Coat Hanger is really special to this exhibition.

NARRATOR: Curator José Diaz.

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: This particular work is from 1927 which is an example of one of the earliest works in the show. Calder had been so innovative with wire, so much so that we use the term drawing in space.

NARRATOR: Artist Kennedy Yanko:

KENNEDY YANKO: The fact that he would carry pliers in his pocket and just decide to start drawing is such a true thing to me, the idea of choosing a medium to represent drawing.  

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: But what’s really beautiful about it is the simplicity. You’ll notice the wooden base, which looks like it could have been a discarded material. You’ll notice the figurative aspect of it, sort of the profile of an individual.

KENNEDY YANKO: It’s surprising, and it’s intriguing, and somehow it’s barely there, but when you take a closer look at it, the sensibility, the delicacy, the gesture, the breasts, the face, how can a line have so much effect and so much life within it? So, I think that it’s just a gesture to like how powerful the way that the eyes can read something, and the way that the mind can fill the rest of the space. And I think with Calder’s work there’s always opportunity for that. He knows that the mind will always fill the blank spaces and always complete what needs to be there.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Group of Circus-Themed Prints

Throughout the 1920s, Alexander Calder worked as an illustrator for the National Police Gazette. On one assignment, Calder was tasked with visiting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus life. The experience led to a newfound interest for the circus.

A series of seven lithographs on view in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM demonstrate Calder’s lifelong fascination with the circus. Originally drawn in 1931–32, the prints were published in New York in 1964 as part of an unbound portfolio reproducing the artist’s circus scenes. The portfolio, titled Calder’s Circus, includes a signature page by Cleve Gray and a reproduction of a letter from Joan Miró. Notably, the original line drawings were made during a time of transition for the artist: after his performative Cirque Calder (1926–31) and during his exploration of purely abstract forms—as well as voids and volumes—in his mobiles and stabiles.

On the eleventh stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz explains why Calder considered the circus to be a ‘highly sophisticated form of entertainment’ and shares details of the artist’s famous Cirque Calder. Listen at any time via our SoundCloud or, if you’re in SAM’s galleries, scan the QR codes next to select artworks on view to access the tour.

Group of Circus-Themed Prints, 1931–32, 1964

NARRATOR: These offset lithographs date from 1964; but they’re based on drawings that Calder made as a young man. 

During the 1920s, Calder took a job illustrating for the National Police Gazette. They sent him to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus scenes. The circus became a lifelong interest for Calder. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: During Calder’s youth, the circus was a great point of inspiration for him. This was a highly sophisticated form of entertainment. It had a global appeal. It included performative aspects—larger than life theatricality. It included actors, performers, and animals. And he illustrated this. He even went on to make his Cirque Calder, which was his own representation of a performative, sculptural circus that he himself was sort of the ringmaster of.  

NARRATOR: The Cirque Calder dates from after Calder’s move to Paris in 1926. It was a complex and unique body of art, and included tiny performers, animals and props such as he’d observed on his sketching trips to the circus. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The Cirque Calder was a reenacted performative circus made of small figurines and design sets that mimic the circus. The Cirque Calder was something that was small enough to fit in one suitcase and eventually five, and Calder would perform the Cirque Calder across the Atlantic from Paris to New York. 

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Going Mobile, Deep Roots, and Mother Wit

SAM News

“Hope you like mobiles!!” The Stranger’s Everout names SAM’s first-ever Calder Symposium one of “The Best Things To Do in Seattle This Month: May 2024.” With a talk by renowned Alexander Calder biographer Jed Perl on Friday evening and a day of tours, lectures, and screenings about Calder’s genius all day Saturday, you won’t want to miss it.

And save the date: SAM’s summer exhibition, Poke in the Eye: Art of the West Coast Counterculture, opens in just over a month. 425 Magazine mentioned it in their “This Week in A&E” spotlight. 

Local News

In her latest ArtSEA post, Cascade PBS’s Brangien Davis sees arts venues “putting on a good face”; some of her recommendations have passed but some are ongoing—don’t miss out!

Via Sarah Stackhouse for Seattle Magazine: “Rebuilding Re-Sole 206.”

“One Reel, former Bumbershoot producer, closing; its art paper survives”: Chase Hutchinson for The Seattle Times with an update on the 52-year-old nonprofit arts organization.

“In an email, Elisheba Johnson, One Reel’s board president, spoke of the organization’s ‘roots that are long and deep in the community. Almost every events/music employee in this region has worked at One Reel at some point of their career,’ Johnson said. ‘One Reel will be remembered as the incredible convener of arts and culture in Seattle for over 50 years.’

Inter/National News

Artnet rounds up the best looks inspired by art history at the Met Gala.

Via Ad Age: “Apple apologized Thursday for a new iPad Pro commercial that was met with fierce criticism from creatives for depicting an array of creative tools and objects—from a piano, to a camera, to cans of paint—being destroyed by an industrial crusher.”

Via Evan Nicole Brown for T: The New York Times Style Magazine: “Betye Saar Remains Guided by the Spirit.”

“Saar, who is 97, decides what to reach for based on something she has referred to over the years as “mother wit”: she feels when a wooden statue, antique doll or rusted dagger is calling to be used. Saar considers this selection process to be a sacred one.”

And Finally

“10 Times Artists Hid Themselves in Their Paintings.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Little Yellow Panel

Although it was never publicly exhibited in his lifetime, Little Yellow Panel exemplifies Alexander Calder’s desire to create “paintings in motion.” This exotic wall sculpture’s origin can actually be traced to a significant moment in Calder’s development that inspired him to experiment with movement: his visit to the studio of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian in October 1930.

The artist recalled being impressed not by Mondrian’s paintings but by the environmental space of his studio: “Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red. I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said: ‘No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.’” 

In the wake of his visit, Calder began to work in the abstract. Beginning the following year, he explored the frontal formality of painting in three dimensions but with actual motion—elements in oscillation—usually by way of simple motors. Eventually, he experimented more freely with the possibilities of movement, suspending elements to be activated by air within wood frames or in front of panels made of painted plywood. Little Yellow Panel showcases how Calder ingeniously blurred the lines between painting and sculpture to reflect a choreography of nonobjective imagery.

Supplement your visit to Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM and learn more about Little Yellow Panel by tuning in to the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Access it now on our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to select works on view when exploring the museum’s galleries.

Little Yellow Panel, ca. 1936

NARRATOR: Little Yellow Panel is part of a series of works from the mid-1930s that explored the concept of ‘paintings in motion.’ The work blurs the lines between painting and sculpture: viewed from the front, its various elements appear to be positioned against a defined yellow background. But these elements can be moved around—so the composition changes. Artist Kennedy Yanko:

KENNEDY YANKO: What I like about it is that it’s perfect. It’s a perfect piece. Where the colors show up: they’re placed perfectly with just the right amount of randomness. It’s ironic. It’s calling upon all these different things. It captures, you know, an entrance into a more minimal thought of color and form. And it also holds his curiosity. And this really feels kind of like a pivotal moment of clarity.

NARRATOR: This was an intense period of innovation for Calder. In 1930, he visited the Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian. Calder was excited by the way the older artist had arranged his studio: Mondrian had pinned rectangles of colored cardboard to the walls, as he experimented with different compositions. For Calder, the whole space became an installation.

Following this visit, he made his first wholly abstract compositions. It was also at this time that he invented the kinetic sculptures we know as mobiles. It was his friend the French artist Marcel Duchamp who suggested the term. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He suggested it because in French the word mobile: it refers not only to motion, but it also means your motivation or your motive—Calder’s motivation, Calder’s motions, Calder’s motives. It was like that. It was a pun.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Group of Photos

By the 1950s, Alexander Calder had established himself as an internationally renowned artist. Although the public perceived him as a social butterfly, he preferred to work in his Roxbury, Connecticut studio alone and in silence. Few outsiders were granted access to the artist’s workspace. Among them, however, was acclaimed photojournalist and filmmaker Gordon Parks.

Parks visited Calder in his home and studio in 1952 on assignment for Life magazine. That year, Calder represented the United States at the 26th Venice Biennale, an international exposition that highlights global artistic achievements. This photograph, featuring a mobile now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is one of several images that were taken by Parks for the August 25, 1952, issue of the magazine. The accompanying story celebrated Calder’s winning of the biennale’s grand prize for sculpture.

Learn more about this work and two other photographs of Calder in his studio by tuning in to the seventh stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. The full tour is available to explore on your own time via our SoundCloud or in our galleries by scanning the QR code next to select works in the exhibition.

Group of Photos: Calder Installing Gamma (1947), Alexander Calder, Roxbury Ct. (1957), and Alexander Calder (1952)

NARRATOR: These three photographs offer an intimate glimpse of Calder at work. 

Let’s focus on the image to the far right of the group. It was taken by the important photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks in 1952. That year, Calder had been selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The Venice Biennale is sort of the Olympics of the art world where artists are chosen to represent their countries, and Calder actually won the Grand Prize that year.

This photo was taken for the August 25, 1952, issue of Life magazine and features Calder not installing an exhibition at the Venice Biennale but actually in his studio in Roxbury, Connecticut. This was a very private space, and for Life magazine—or really the American public—to see the artist behind the scenes would have been really captivating at the time.

NARRATOR: For artist Kennedy Yanko, the photographs offer a different perspective on the work.

KENNEDY YANKO: When you typically see Calder’s work, you’re looking up and you’re looking around. So your entire physical gesture and exploration of it changes. But you can see here how different it is when he’s so close to it and how he’s experienced it in the making. He’s living within the work, and he’s living within the sculpture, and I think that that’s what allowed all of these monumental sculptures to kind of continue to carry us. That sense of life and that sense of curiosity is how deeply immersed and present he was inside of the pieces.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Bougainvillier

In the late 1940s, Alexander Calder developed sophisticated sculptures with pierced elements and interchanging relationships, the largest and most resolved of which is Bougainvillier. The construction of this vibrant masterpiece includes three wispy tendrils with mobile bursts, the lowermost of which is suspended by a handmade chain. Although it derives its title from the French word for the bougainvillea plant, this work—the most elegant and commanding sculpture on view in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM—is non-objective.

Calder’s choices for titles, whether in English or French, are not assets for artistic interpretation. He was known to intuitively name his sculptures after they were created, based on “some vague association,” as he said. “Sometimes it’s the whole thing that suggests a title to me, sometimes it’s just a detail.”

Bougainvillier made its public debut on the heels of Jean-Paul Sartre’s seminal 1946 essay, “Les Mobiles de Calder,” written by the French philosopher for the artist’s show at Galerie Louis Carré, Paris. Sartre’s words anticipated the complex environment created by a work like Bougainvillier, with its gestural lines projecting into unpredictable spaces:

“The forces at work are too numerous and complicated for any human mind, even that of their creator, to be able to foresee all their combinations. For each [mobile] Calder establishes a general fated course of movement, then abandons them to it: time, sun, heat, and wind will determine each particular dance. Thus the object is always midway between the servility of the statue and the independence of natural events.”

Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower shares more excerpts from Sartre’s essay in the tenth stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion. Tune in now via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to Bougainvillier in the exhibition’s galleries.

Bougainvillier, 1947

NARRATOR: Bougainvillier is one of the works in the Shirley Collection most frequently requested for exhibitions. It dates from 1947, a period when Calder was focusing on standing mobiles. Calder Foundation President Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: The frilly lines, these wires that come out in space—even when they’re not active, you feel a tremendous sense of movement through space—are why he called it Bougainvillier. His process of titling, of course: it wasn’t that he saw a Bougainvillea vine with the beautiful purple leaves and blossoms. He made a sculpture and then, looking back in retrospect, said it’s kind of the tendrils of a line, I’ll call it Bougainvillier

And the use of the title is not any kind of access into understanding or meaning of a work. You should really consider that the work has no meaning. But then you have to bring yourself forward and contribute and participate with the work in a way that the meaning is created. Calder always anticipated that the viewer was going to have an active role in not just experiencing his work, but in the viewer’s own interpretation.

NARRATOR: The year before Bougainvillier was made, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre explored these ideas in a seminal essay on Calder. Sartre captures the sense of what it’s like to experience a Calder sculpture. As he put it:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: “Each of its twists and turns is an inspiration of the moment. In it you can discern the theme composed by its maker, but the mobile weaves a thousand variations on it. It is a little hot jazz tune, unique and ephemeral, like the sky, like the morning. If you miss it, it’s lost forever.”

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Must-See Smith, Seattle U Gift, and Finally Gilot

SAM News

“3 must-see shows by Indigenous artists in Seattle this spring”: Gayle Clemans for The Seattle Times recommends Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map among two other exhibitions at the Frye Art Museum and the Henry Art Gallery.

“Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation) has been a force in the art world for over five decades, creating deeply impactful work and opening doors for the increasing recognition of contemporary art by Native Americans.”

And don’t miss Elizabeth Hunter’s “mother-daughter review” of the exhibition for Seattle’s Child, featuring insights from Smith, reflections on the works on view, and tips for how to make the most of a museum visit with your family.

Spring is here, and so is a new edition of The Stranger’s Art and Performance Magazine featuring a dazzling Anida Yoeu Ali on the cover. Inside the magazine—which you can pick up around the city—catch the interview with Ali that covers “absurdity, grief, the diasporic dilemma, cosmogonies, and Dune.” (Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map is also among the mag’s recommendations.)

Local News

Via Jas Keimig for South Seattle Emerald: “New Seattle-based podcast Invisible Histories explores the history of Seattle—specifically South Seattle—that might not always be readily apparent or celebrated.”

Seattle Magazine rounds up a bevy of spring arts recommendations around the city, including Calder: In Motion.

“Seattle University gets $300 million gift of art — among largest in history”: Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times announces exciting news for the city’s arts scene. 

“The collection—which spans more than six centuries and contains prime examples of Western art history—will serve as a resource for students, faculty and art enthusiasts across the city, said Seattle University President Eduardo Peñalver. ‘I think it’s a win-win for Seattle University and for Seattle,’ he said.”

Inter/National News

The New York Times sends a chorus of three critics—Jason Farago, Travis Diehl, Martha Schwendener—to the Whitney Biennial.

Via Artnet: “Forget Kate Middleton’s Photoshop Blunder: Here Are Other Royals Who Had Their Portraits Edited.”

Via Rhea Nayyar for Hyperallergic: “Picasso Museum Is Showing Françoise Gilot’s Work, Finally.”

“In a press interview regarding the new display, Musée Picasso President Cécile Debray noted that Gilot was at last ‘being given her rightful place as an artist’ at the Parisian institution through this special exhibition of her work.”

And Finally

“What Your Bookshelf Organization Says About You.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong

“You have weight, form, size, color, motion and then you have noise.”

– Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder’s mobiles are recognized for their subtle movements, but their innovative use of sound is lesser known. Of over 22,000 artworks attributed to Calder, scholars have identified dozens of sound-producing mobiles. Beginning in the 1930s, Calder used sound in his abstract objects as a means to enhance ‘disparity’ within a composition. His most recognizable sonorous objects feature gongs, which he developed in earnest in the 1940s and 1950s.

Following its creation in 1948, Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong hung in the artist’s Roxbury studio, where incoming winds from the Connecticut countryside would ‘compose’ an unpredictable musical backdrop as he worked. A glimpse into this experience is offered in the Herbert Matter film Works of Calder (1950), with music by John Cage, in which elements of Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong slice through space. In the following decade, the mobile was presented as part of Philadelphia Collects 20th Century at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before being acquired by the Shirley family in 1999.

Sound objects like Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong express the possibilities that Marcel Duchamp recognized in Calder’s mobiles in 1949: “The symphony is complete when color and sound join in and call on all our senses to follow the unwritten score. Pure joie de vivre. The art of Calder is the sublimation of a tree in the wind.”

Find out if you can hear the subtle ‘ding’ of Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong by visiting Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM. Until then, you can learn more about this work from SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz and Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower by tuning in to the eighth stop on the exhibition’s free smartphone tour via our SoundCloud.

Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong, 1948

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: One of the joys about Calder’s work is that one must be prepared for the unexpected…

NARRATOR: José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: … whether you visit the exhibition and you see objects moving—or if you hear sounds. And so this is a wonderful example of one of Calder’s works that actually contains sound.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: This particular work is one of my favorite works in the Shirley Collection.

NARRATOR: Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Every object has an extraordinary shape except for the white disc—which, the white disc has the kind of purpose of being almost a rudder to drive the hammer, which is this red coil that strikes the gong. Even just people circumnavigating a gallery will activate the mobile, and it will occasionally give a little bright, you know, ‘ding.’

NARRATOR: Calder’s use of sound can be related to his love of music. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Calder was quite obsessed with music. He loved to dance. He was a famous dancer actually. If he was at a party, he would dance with a partner and then wear them out completely and then choose another partner and wear that person out completely. Which I witnessed as a young boy, of course, but much more famously was in the ‘20s and the ‘30s and ‘40s when he was out doing such things, you know.

NARRATOR: Here, the musical vibration is a way of drawing us into the work.  

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: There is a possibility it may never make sound during its presentation at the Seattle Art Museum, but the moment of surprise awaits.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Connecting Art to Life in Every Way: Accessibility Updates from SAM

“This bronze sculpture of a seaweed stalk sits on a freestanding pedestal a few feet off the ground. The overall shape is abstracted, made of rounded, wavy, leaf-like shapes. The surface color is a dark, chocolatey brown that blends with lighter patches of deep caramel. As you move around the sculpture, the color shifts as light reflects off the patina from different angles.”

This is an excerpt from the verbal description for the collection work Mo (Seaweed) (1977) by George Tsutakawa. These detailed audio explanations bring artworks to life for visitors with low or no vision and are available for smartphones via QR codes.

With the guidance of an accessibility trainer and contributions from community members—including SAM Visitor Experience Representative Derek Bourcier and former SAM docent Donnie Wilburn—we’ve revamped our production of verbal descriptions. In addition to creating them for many artworks in special exhibitions, such as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map and Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, we are also working to create them for collection galleries such as American Art: The Stories We Carry at the Seattle Art Museum and Boundless: Stories of Asian Art at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

“We want our verbal descriptions to meet the needs of the people they’re serving,” says Ramzy Lakos, SAM Museum Educator for Digital Learning, who leads their development. “The goal is to have one for every artwork on view. We get a little closer to achieving that every year.”

In addition to verbal descriptions, the museum offers large-print copies of the object labels for select exhibitions as well as transcripts of all smartphone tours. SAM also offers ASL interpretation upon request. At Coat Check, visitors can borrow baby carriers and strollers, canes, stools, wheelchairs, disposable magnifying glasses, earplugs, large-print maps, colorblind glasses, a text telephone device, and Android phones with headphones for accessing online audio tours and descriptions.

“It’s all about progress,” says SAM Visitor Experience Manager Chelsea Leingang. “It’s about acknowledging that SAM can do better and actively working to make the artwork in our galleries more accessible to visitors.”

Check out visitsam.org/accessibility or call us at 206.654.3210 for more information about our accessibility options, to request accommodations, or obtain a large-print version of SAM magazine.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

This article first appeared in the February through May 2024 edition of SAM Magazine and has been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks!

Photos: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Case of Small Mobiles

It is often assumed that Alexander Calder began experimenting with scale by making small, intimate sculptures before eventually scaling up to monumental commissions, such as The Eagle (1970), on view at the Olympic Sculpture Park. This assumption, however, is incorrect.

Calder’s understanding of scale began in his childhood when he observed his father managing sculpture projects (including the enlargement of monuments from models) for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Throughout his career, Calder worked in all sizes and scales, with a non-linear progression that was daring and fluid. Some of his small-scale works were made as maquettes for colossal objects. Others, including this collection of standing mobiles, were of a different breed, with many being constructed as gifts for family and friends.

In the sixth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz compares the artistry between Calder’s monumental and miniature sculptures. Tune in to this recording and many more via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR codes next to select works in the exhibition’s galleries.

Haven’t visited Calder: In Motion yet? Check out visitsam.org/tickets to plan your next visit to SAM and get an up-close look at the intricate details of Alexander Calder’s tiniest sculptures.

Case of Small Mobiles: Untitled (1952), Black, White, Yellow and Brass on Red (1959), Untitled (1947), Two White Dots (1973)

NARRATOR: We often associate Calder with monumental sculpture. But he also worked on a small, delicate scale throughout his career. This case displays a grouping of some of Calder’s small-scale works. Calder was known for making works like these as gifts. José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: There’s a famous story of Calder making small works encased in a cigar box for his wife, and so his wife, Louisa, can travel with these. She can display them as she saw fit. She can curate them within her own setting. But it’s also the small works’ complexity.

So, if you look at this case, you’ll notice that the small mobiles are just as detailed. You’ll notice that they’re balanced. You’ll notice that the use of metal is done with such delicacy that it has just as much attention as Calder would focus on for his larger-scaled works. You also can get a sense of the colors. The palettes are very similar to Calder’s larger scaled works. You’ll notice shapes that are similar to other large-scale works. But it’s often because Calder is working within an aesthetic that can really work within scale. And Calder was very conscious when he played with scale because it allowed him to also explore the way that these stabiles and mobiles could function in a setting, regardless of how big they are.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Red Curly Tail

In 1933, Alexander Calder and his wife, Louisa, relocated to the United States from Paris, France, and purchased a farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. The property was large enough to allow the artist to work on an elevated scale and an old icehouse was transformed into his new studio. 

The following summer, Calder completed his first collection of outdoor works, which ranged in height from five to nine feet. Working larger proved to be expensive and experimental for the artist, so he began making models—or maquettes—in 1936 from which he could enlarge his final sculpture. 

The last two decades of Calder’s life were very successful, and he received multiple high-profile commissions for outdoor sculptures. Red Curly Tail, previously displayed on the lawn of the Shirley family home is a standing mobile that evokes a sense of wonder. Other significant works Calder created during this period include El Sol Rojo for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and The Eagle (1971), now on view at the Olympic Sculpture Park on Seattle’s waterfront.

Tune in to the fifth stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection to hear SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz discuss the large size of Red Curly Tail and Calder’s lifelong fascination with scale. All 16 stops of the audio tour are available on our SoundCloud or via the QR codes adjacent to select works in the exhibition’s galleries. Get your tickets to experience all twelve feet of this monumental sculpture at SAM today!

Red Curly Tail, 1970

NARRATOR: Calder had started working on large outdoor sculptures in the 1930s, after he and his wife Louisa moved from Paris to a farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. Red Curly Tail dates from 1970—the last decade of his life. It’s essentially a stabile with a mobile element on top, known as a standing mobile. Curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: Red Curly Tail is a work that originally would have been shown outdoors, but it also has the… I guess the ambiguity or the ability to be shown inside as a freestanding sculpture without a natural environment around it but actually within other Calder works in this exhibition.

This particular work sort of peeks at you, and you have to approach it, and as you approach it you notice its bold red base. You notice the mobile aspects on top. It’s got this anthropomorphic tail that sort of hints at its quality of being something from nature, but it’s completely abstract as well.

It does give you a sense of scale because when you look at it, you have to also look left, right, and look above and realize, wow, I’m face to face with one of Calder’s outdoor works that actually plays with the sense of scale, especially when a human approaches it. It does take the subtlest air movements to make a Calder mobile move or to sway. However, the outdoor works would require massive gusts of wind. I don’t expect it to shuffle much, but I do think that you’ll always see it in a different way, and that’s really one of the incredible things about this exhibition.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Living Color, Art Home, and Sargent’s Fashion

SAM News

“Artist, Agitator, Bug”: For University of Washington Magazine, Shin Yu Pai writes about Anida Yoeu Ali: Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence, now on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

“Ali notes that the themes in her work, like the history of war, trauma and genocide, are not frequently presented in mainstream cultural institutions. She seeks to be politically provocative and aesthetically remarkable while also conveying playfulness and joy.”

Former Seattleite Leslie Kelly returns for a fun-filled weekend for the Spokesman-Review’s “Going Mobile” series, making stops at the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Seattle Art Museum to see Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection.

Via Seattle Met: “Artist Cristina Martinez Shares Her Favorite Seattle Spots”—including the Seattle Art Museum. 

“As a family we spend a significant amount of time there…I always make my kids show me their favorite and least favorite piece.”

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Margo Vansynghel brings you “6 Seattle photo exhibits to see in March.” Shout out to Jo Cosme, a former Emerging Arts Leader Intern in Graphic Design at SAM; go see her show at 4Culture!

Crosscut Now takes you behind the scenes of Seattle Opera as it prepared to debut X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. See it there now through March 9.

Elizabeth Hunter and her daughter Cora continue their explorations of cultural spaces; this time, they visit Wa Na Wari in the Central District to enjoy art…and cookies. 

“These little reminders of home—a claw foot bathtub, the smell of food cooking in the kitchen—are what make Wa Na Wari such a memorable art venue. No matter where you are, you are reminded: This is a home.”

Inter/National News

Via Colin Moynihan for The New York Times: “What’s in a Name? For This Rembrandt, a Steep and Rapid Rise in Price.”

Big news for the museum field: “Marilyn Jackson Named the New President and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums.”

Jo Lawson-Tancred for Artnet on Sargent and Fashion, which is now on view at Tate Britain in London after a successful run at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“Like an antidote to the avant-garde, Sargent’s paintings have a timeless charm owed to his uncanny ability to bring subjects to life on canvas… Walking through the galleries, one feels almost like they are stepping into a century-old conversation between fully sentient figures.”

And Finally

“Bartell’s has always been more than a drugstore.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Fish

“I feel that the artist should go about his work simply, with great respect for his materials. Simplicity of equipment and an adventurous spirit in attacking the unfamiliar or unknown are apt to result in a primitive and vigorous art. Somehow the primitive is usually much stronger than art in which technique and flourish abound.”

– Alexander Calder, À Propos of Measuring a Mobile

With sheet metal in short supply during World War II, Alexander Calder turned to working with bits of wood, shattered glass, ceramics, tins, and other discarded objects he collected on his farm in Roxbury, Connecticut. Between the 1940s and 1950s, he used these materials to make a dozen hanging fish. Their bodies were constructed of painted rods that were  interlaced with wires to mimic scales. In each of the resulting voids, he suspended shards of glass, porcelain, and other found materials that dazzled when hit by light.

Fishnoted as John Shirley’s favorite of Calder’s works in his collection—is considered to be the earliest example of the artist’s fish mobiles. 

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection is now on view at SAM! Scan the in-gallery QR code beside Fish on your next visit to SAM to access additional information about this work as part of the exhibition’s free smartphone tour. Or, explore all 16 stops of the audio tour on your own time via our SoundCloud.

Fish, 1942

NARRATOR: Calder made a dozen hanging fish over the 1940s and 50s. This example, dating from 1942, seems to be the first of the group. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: One of the unusual things about this one compared to all the others is that there are a lot of bits of mirror; and we know about a mirror that was a bistro mirror that Calder had that got broken in a fire and he repurposed pieces of that. And you see them here: you see the kind of scraped away silvering on the glass in some of the pieces. So, this one really reflects a lot of light: doesn’t just transmute the light like a stained-glass window, like many of the fish, but actually transmutes and reflects at the same time. 

NARRATOR: Exhibition curator José Diaz:

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: The lighting creates a shadow, actually a colorful shadow that’s also unexpected within the space, and this is something that gives you a new take on Calder, or even an extension of the sculpture itself, as sculpture as shadow.

NARRATOR: The use of a broken mirror may say something about the time this mobile was made. During the Second World War, Calder felt that sheet metal should be reserved for the war effort; instead, he turned to discarded materials. One useful source was a dump near his studio in Connecticut.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: He dug out this mound and found many bits of colored glass and assortments of bits of metal and pieces that he started to incorporate as kind of enticing objects in sculpture. Clearly this Fish has some of those and other things. You can see that there’s a piece of Chinese porcelain and some other bits of pottery from sources unknown.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Heroic Art, Eco-Feminist Trash, and Harlem at the Met

SAM News

Anida Yoeu Ali: Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence is now on view at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. For NW Asian Weekly, Kai Curry highlights Ali’s experiences bringing sculptural garments to life in real-world contexts.

“As a society, we don’t talk enough about the heroism of artists. Of what an artist like Ali risks in order to ask the hard questions—and to force the public to ask them as well. Strip searches, theft, violence…These interactions, though surreal, are real. They give the artist and the audience insight into who the artist is—but also into who we are.”

Via Karen Ho for ARTnews: “A Vast Gift of Calder Sculptures Could Change the Seattle Art Museum—and the Surrounding City—Forever.”

Kids at home? Yulia Fiala for Seattle’s Child has you covered with “21 fun things to do for midwinter break”—including a visit to Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection.

Local News

KING5 Evening interviews artist Juliana Kang Robinson about her special edition Seattle Kraken logo created for Lunar New Year. Robinson is a teaching artist with SAM, and you can also see her work on the crosswalk art at First and University.

Via Jadenne Radoc Cabahug for Crosscut: “From 2020 to now: 4 Seattle Black activists reflect on their work.”

In the latest edition of “Artists to Know,” The Seattle Times’ Margo Vansynghel profiles Marita Dingus and her sculptures made of discarded materials. Her work is in SAM’s collection.

“Saving these materials from the landfill isn’t just a means to a waste-reducing end: Dingus considers herself an environmental, feminist artist steeped in African American art traditions and a belief in ecological and racial justice.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Brian Boucher on a witty gesture rendered in an asparagus stalk by Édouard Manet. 

Via Holland Cotter of The New York Times: “The Met Aims to Get Harlem Right, the Second Time Around.”

“The museum isn’t framing the show as an institutional correction, though how can it be viewed otherwise? At the same time, it’s more than just that. It’s the start — or could be — in moving a still-neglected art history out of the wings and onto the main stage.”

And Finally

“The dog who deserves an Oscar.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Abbey Road, The Red Chador: Genesis I, Main St. & 102nd Ave, Bellevue, Washington, USA, 2021, Anida Yoeu Ali, Cambodian American, b. 1974, archival inkjet print, Image courtesy of the artist, © Studio Revolt, photo: Dylan Maddux.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Untitled (Métaboles)

Alexander Calder shares a rich history with performance art. He projected many of his ideas onto the stage, collaborating with composers, actors, and choreographers, including Martha Graham, Virgil Thomson, John Butler, and Jean Vilar. Perhaps nowhere is the expansiveness of Calder’s vision more apparent than in these collaborations, in which the disciplines of music, dance, and sculpture expand our understanding of known experience. 

Calder was commissioned to create an artwork that would accompany Métaboles, a new ballet choreographed by Joseph Lazzini to music by Henri Dutilleux and produced by the Théâtre Français de la Danse. The result, Untitled (Métaboles), embodies Lazzini’s themes of variation and transformation. Its subtle movements echo the delicate movements of the figures onstage as it continually unfolds in space. The dynamic mobile made its public debut alongside the ballet’s premiere at the Odéon-Théâtre de France, Paris, in 1969. The ballet also featured costumes designed by Calder.

Calder’s interest in performance didn’t end there, however. In 1968, the year before Métaboles was realized, Calder premiered his own “ballet without dancers” known as Work in Progress at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome. The result is approximately 19 minutes long, with Calder-designed costumes, hanging and standing mobiles, stabiles, and painted backdrops, accompanied by electronic music by three composers.

Listen to the third stop of the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection to hear Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower discuss how considerations of space and movement played influential roles in the artist’s creation of Untitled (Métaboles). You can explore all 16 stops on the audio tour via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code adjacent to select works in SAM’s galleries. Reserve your tickets to see Calder: In Motion at SAM to witness how this work ‘dances’ for yourself!

Untitled (Métaboles),1969

NARRATOR: This unusual work was made as a prop for a ballet, Métaboles, produced by Théâtre Français de la Danse, in 1969. Sandy Rower:

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Here, he was invited by Joseph Lazzini, who was a choreographer, to collaborate and participate with this stage performance. And it’s a highly active work: the way the loops are connected makes it have a lot of movement. So, you could imagine it hung high above dancers and being quite free in its movement.

Calder often regarded his work in relation to choreography. I mean, his mobiles—the composition and the way they move—and if you think of them as multidimensional experiences—you begin to quickly relate them to music and dance and other arts. So, he kind of broke a lot of traditions in sculpting—what we think of traditionally as sculpting bronze and marble and clay—and he got rid of the mass, and then he introduced this activity of the sculpture responding to our space, responding to the room that we’re in or, in this case, in the theater.

NARRATOR: The work was made according to Calder’s initial model and assembly sketch.   

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Its qualities are extremely unusual because it was actually fabricated by set masters, so not made the way that Calder usually made his mobiles, at his foundry or in his studio with his hands himself. The fact that he could step away and allow others to introduce their aspects makes it really a collaborative thing.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Mountains (1:5 Intermediate Maquette)

In 1975, Alexander Calder was commissioned to create a monumental sculpture for the nine-story atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. The result, Mountains and Clouds, is a towering two-part composition that stands 51 feet tall.

Mountains (1:5 Intermediate Maquette), the first artwork visitors encounter in Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM, is a scale model—referred to as a maquette—of the stabile portion of Calder’s colossal sculpture. The artist began creating intermediate maquettes in the mid-1960s as part of the process of scaling up his colossal sculptures “to study the overlapping of the plates and the piercing of the holes.”

In November of the following year—just under a month after the opening of his highly-applauded retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art—the artist traveled to Washington, DC  to finalize the details of the project with the architect. That evening, Calder returned to New York City, where he unexpectedly died of a heart attack. The artist’s death led to several delays in the commission’s completion with the final installation eventually taking place in 1986. Today, the stabile portion of Mountains and Clouds remains on view in the Hart Senate Building while the mobile undergoes restoration.

As a stationary work accompanied by a hanging mobile, Mountains and Clouds is the only composition of its kind that Calder created. Learn more about Mountains (1:5 Intermediate Maquette) and the sculpture it is paired with in SAM’s galleries, Femme Assise (1929), in the second stop on the free smartphone tour of Calder: In Motion. Browse all sixteen stops in the tour via our SoundCloud or by scanning the QR code next to select artworks in the exhibition.

Mountains (1:5 Intermediate Maquette), 1976

NARRATOR: In his later years, Calder focused primarily on large-scale public works. And of course, you can see one such work—The Eagle—here in Seattle in the museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park.

You’re looking at Mountains, a model for the “stabile” component of Calder’s massive 51-foot high work, Mountains and Clouds. A “stabile” is a stationary sculpture, in contrast to Calder’s moving sculptures, called “mobiles.” In the monumental work, the stabile is paired with a mobile, which hovers above it.

Calder made the full-sized sculpture for the Hart Senate Building in Washington, DC. It was one of his last projects before his death in 1976. The sculpture is made from sheet metal—one of Calder’s most favored materials.

KENNEDY YANKO: Metal is one of the most fascinating materials in the world. You know, it’s something that we are excavating from the ground. It’s coming from the earth…

NARRATOR: Kennedy Yanko is a painter and sculptor who works with metal.

KENNEDY YANKO: …and it carries what it’s known and what it’s experienced. It’s this amazing material that goes from a hard state to a liquid; and my relationship to this heavy, typically connoted as an industrial material is quite interesting because I watch it break like a twig. It actually becomes something that’s delicate to me.

NARRATOR: This late work is paired here with one of Calder’s earliest works, a wooden sculpture called Femme Assise, from 1929.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: I think that’s really informative and quite interesting to have them together: you get a sense of a trajectory.

NARRATOR: Alexander S. C. Rower is President of the Calder Foundation, and the grandson of the artist.

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: And also, you get a sense of really the 20th century in terms of aesthetics, just in these two objects.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Dragon Year, Gum Pete, and Art Gardens

SAM News

Julie Dodobara for ParentMap recommends “Lunar New Year Events for Seattle-Area Kids and Families in 2024,” including the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s celebration on Saturday, February 3. Ring in the Year of the Dragon with us!

While there, you could also take in the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s exciting new exhibition, Anida Yoeu Ali: Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence. In her new Seattle Magazine column, “Social in Seattle,” Linda Lowry highlights several area events that combined community and art, including the opening events with the artist. For UW Daily, Avery Cook writes how the Tacoma-based artist “blends art and activism to spark important conversations.”

“Vibrant images, breathtaking videography, and genuine artifacts from the performances are on display to demonstrate their influence and cultural significance.”

Seattle Museum Month kicks off this week, reports Emily Molina for 425 Magazine. During the month of February, Visit Seattle partners with area museums for half-off savings. Molina mentions Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at the Seattle Art Museum as one of the shows you can see during the month. And ICYMI: Christie’s includes the exhibition on their list of “the best exhibitions and openings of 2024: North America.”

Local News

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis celebrates five years of the weekly ArtSEA post (congrats!) with ideas for forest bathing in tree art, including the Enter the Forest show that opens this Wednesday at SAM Gallery.

Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times interviews actor and Seattle theater alum Lily Gladstone about her historic Oscar nomination

 The Seattle Times on oft-viral local artist Rudy Willingham’s latest project: “Sticky Pete Carroll mural honors the gum-chomping former Seahawks coach.”

“‘There was something about the gum I thought was so funny,’ Willingham said. ‘He always had gum in his mouth, running up the sidelines, it reminded me of a little kid. I loved how much he enjoyed the job and his childlike enthusiasm.’”

Inter/National News

Laurel Graeber for the New York Times on Artland: An Installation by Do Ho Suh and Children at the Brooklyn Museum, “an ever-expanding fantasy world designed and molded by children.”

ARTnews’ Alex Greenberger reviews Multiple Realities: Experimental Art in the Eastern Bloc, 1960s–1980, now on view at the Walker Art Center.

Emily Steer for Artnet asks, “Are gardens the art of the future?”

“Some artists, however, have taken these interests a step further, elevating the idea of gardening to an expansive, awe-inspiring effect. These artists combine ambitious organic or digital plants with music, poetry, and scientific collaboration.” 

And Finally

The Milwaukee Public Library is the best thing on social media right now.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Calder Smartphone Tour: Introduction to the SAM Exhibition

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection is now on view at SAM! As part of this SAM-exclusive exhibition, we’ve developed a free smartphone tour featuring additional insight on Calder’s life, legacy, and artistic career.

Composed of 15 stops, the tour includes interviews with collector Jon Shirley, SAM Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art José Carlos Diaz, sculptor Kennedy Yanko, and Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower, as they share their educational and personal thoughts on artworks including Fish (1942), Toile d’araignée (1965), Bougainvillier (1947), Red Curly Tail (1970), and many more of the artist’s most iconic works.

Tune in to the tour’s introductory stop now to get acquainted with the artists, scholars, curators, and admirers who contributed to this auditory experience. Then, explore all 15 stops in the audio tour of Calder: In Motion by scanning the QR code next to select artworks in the exhibition or on your own time via our SoundCloud

Introducing Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection

JON SHIRLEY: My name is Jon Shirley, and I am pleased to share with you Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection. The works of Alexander Calder that you will see in these galleries have been collected over the past 35 years first with my late wife Mary and now with my wife Kim. Over those years we have found that living with Calder’s work has been a beautiful and uplifting experience. 

Alexander Calder was a great artist whose father and grandfather were both sculptors. In Paris in the late 1920s Calder invented a new world of sculpture—first by using just wire and then by creating abstract works of sheet metal, wood, and wire that moved. As you will see, this collection spans Calder’s art career from the 1920s until his death in 1976. The audio guide will discuss many different works that I love so please take the time to listen and learn about Calder the man and his art.

My family and I sincerely hope that you will find this visit a dynamic experience and that you return to the Seattle Art Museum for many years as we present ongoing exhibitions related to Calder and the artists inspired by Calder.

NARRATOR: The exhibition attempts to capture something of how the works were displayed in the Shirleys’ home – setting up a unique dialogue across the decades. Joining us for this encounter will be exhibition curator José Diaz… 

JOSÉ CARLOS DIAZ: My name is José Diaz.

NARRATOR: …painter and sculptor Kennedy Yanko…

KENNEDY YANKO: Hi! My name is Kennedy Yanko.

NARRATOR: …and Calder Foundation President—and grandson of the artist—Alexander S. C. Rower. 

ALEXANDER S. C. ROWER: Hi, I’m Alexander Rower. Everyone calls me Sandy.

NARRATOR: I hope you’ll enjoy your tour.

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Muse/News: Performance Art, Feminist Masks, and 2024 Must-Sees

SAM News

Anida Yoeu Ali: Hybrid Skin, Mythical Presence opens this Thursday at the Seattle Asian Art Museum! The Seattle Times included the exhibition on its list of “most anticipated Seattle exhibits of 2024,” and Gayle Clemans interviewed the artist for a preview of the exhibition, which celebrates two of Ali’s performance-based works, The Buddhist Bug and The Red Chador.

“‘This humorous creature provides a lot of joy to people,’ Ali said in a recent interview. ‘It’s really beautiful to see how approachable this entity is, especially amongst children and families. ‘The Buddhist Bug’ has a way of softening people and eliciting curiosity.’”

And it’s the final week to see Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence. Here’s Allyson Levy for International Examiner on the hugely popular exhibition.

“Ukiyo-e was considered low-brow art due to the highly reproducible nature of woodblock prints, which reigned supreme during the movement. Woodblock prints allowed artists to create a high volume of prints that they could sell cheaply. Even so, the level of detail and sophistication of technique found in woodblock prints is awe-inspiring.”

Looking back: The Seattle Times included Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection on their list of “top Seattle-area arts and culture happenings of 2023.” Hot tip: The exhibition is on view through the summer—and it rewards repeat viewings.

Local News

Shin Yu Pai for University of Washington Magazine on Cheryll Leo-Gwin’s solo show, Larger Than Life, now on view at The Jack Straw Cultural Center, which “features large-scale colorful prints that use the Chinese coat as a recurring motif.”

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis welcomes 2024 with an overview of colorful shows on view at Seattle galleries.

Via Susan Platt for International Examiner: “Ceramicist Hanako O’Leary interweaves Shinto mythology with feminist ideology.”

“…We experience a powerful feminism that looks at women holding each other and life size masks transformed from historical traditions to suggest the many sides of strong women.”

Inter/National News

A New York Times interactive exploring “the very personal collections that seven artists left behind.”

Hyperallergic names “The Top 50 Exhibitions of 2023,” including the major retrospective of Jaune Quick-to-See Smith that debuted last year at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Your chance to see this groundbreaking exhibition is coming soon, when the exhibition opens at SAM on February 29.

Artnet names “12 Must-See U.S. Museum Shows in 2024,” including Joyce J. Scott, Walk a Mile in My Dreams, a retrospective that debuts at the Baltimore Museum of Art in March before heading to SAM this November. 

“‘Joyce J. Scott’s sophisticated and virtuosic use of a wide range of materials brings beauty and biting irony to bear on subjects ranging from the traumatic to the transcendental,’ the show’s co-curators, Cecilia Wichmann and Catharina Manchanda, said upon announcing the show last summer.”

And Finally

Weird cats of art history.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Live Performance of The Buddhist Bug at Wei-Ling Contemporary Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2019, Anida Yoeu Ali, Cambodian American, b. 1974, Image courtesy of the artist, photo: Nina Ikmal.

Muse/News: Museum Gifts, Unique Bonsai, and Emotional Maps

SAM News

Lee Carter for Artnet on Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection at SAM, sharing reflections from collectors Jon and Kim Shirley about Alexander Calder’s art and why they wanted to gift their collection to SAM.

“Ultimately, it was important to keep the Alexander Calder pieces together, all at SAM. ‘Museums are great public institutions,’ said Shirley. ‘For years we have lent our Calders to exhibitions in other parts of the country and around the world. It’s clear to me that museums are where they belong and we should work as hard as we can to make museums vital institutions.’”

The Stranger includes SAM Gallery’s Printing the PNW show on their list of “best bang for your buck” events. We can’t say it better than them:

“After peeping legendary Edo-period Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock prints, paintings, and illustrated books (yes, including Great Wave, plus a LEGO interpretation of it) on view at Seattle Art Museum, why not drop by SAM Gallery to scope out Japanese-inspired prints created by local artists?”

Local News

“Cinerama — ahem, SIFF Cinema Downtown — is back”: The Seattle Times’ Moira Macdonald reports from the reopened theater.

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis’s latest ArtSEA post bids farewell to Wier Harman, recommends Black Nativity at Intiman Theatre, and spotlights some solstice events. 

Here’s NW Asian Weekly on Irene Taylor’s new HBO documentary about a unique 82-year-old bonsai that lives at the Pacific Bonsai Museum.

“… its seeds were sent to Japanese American Juzaburo Furuzawa during his internment under Executive Order 9066 in World War II…The Furuzawa Pine gained international attention in February 2020 when it was stolen from the Pacific Bonsai Museum, only to be mysteriously returned less than 72 hours later.”

Inter/National News

Revisit “The Defining Art Events of 2023,” courtesy the editors of ARTnews.

The Art Newspaper offers this remembrance of sculptor Richard Hunt, who passed away at the age of 88. 

“A World Map With No National Borders and 1,642 Animals”: The New York Times’ Natasha Frost on cartographer Anton Thomas’s “Wild World.”

For Mr. Thomas, this equates to a kind of “emotional geography,” where features with greater emotional heft — the New York City skyline, say, or the Golden Gate Bridge — may take up more space. “There are animals the size of mountain ranges on my map,’ he said. ‘But you know what? The African lion should tower over Kilimanjaro, if we’re drawing an emotional map.””

And Finally

What is a solstice, anyway?

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Cora’s Take, Arts Funding, and Guide Dog Art

SAM News

“The shadows look like airplanes!” That’s 7-year-old art critic Cora Hunter on Alexander Calder’s Little Yellow Panel (1936). Read all her impressions in Elizabeth Hunter’s “mother-daughter review” of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection. Hunter also features insights from Jose Carlos Diaz, exhibition curator and Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, and Anna Allegro, Associate Director of Education.

In their “Things to Do” list, Seattle Met highlights Printing in the PNW at SAM Gallery, which features local printmakers as a companion show to the museum’s exhibition of Japanese prints, Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence.

And speaking of SAM Gallery: It got a shoutout from curator Jeremy Buben in “How to give art as a holiday gift in Seattle,” an article by Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times. 

“‘For $100, you can rent an artwork at SAM Gallery [the art sales and rental gallery of the Seattle Art Museum] for three months,’ he said. ‘Perhaps this is the nudge your friends need to start getting excited about art; plus, it’ll get them involved in picking something out to temporarily live with.’”

Local News

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis shines a light on “10 photo shows that bring light to Seattle’s dark days.”

Did you see The Stranger’s Keep Warm guide? It’s got tips, recipes, interviews and more.

“King County OKs sales tax increase for ‘transformative’ cultural funding.” The Seattle Times’ Margo Vansynghel reports on the council’s approval of “Doors Open,” a new levy.

“…the Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved a new levy that will provide hundreds of millions in funding to arts, heritage, science and historical preservation nonprofits over the next seven years.”

Inter/National News

“Unsung Women Fashion Designers Finally Get to Strut at the Met”: Artnet’s Raquel Laneri on the Women Dressing Women exhibition.

Maximilíano Durón of ARTnews on “the best booths at Art Basel Miami Beach.”

Via Hilarie M. Sheet for The New York Times: “Her Guide Dog Inspired Her Art. Now the Lab Stars in a Museum Show.”

“It celebrates her 13-year-old guide dog, London, and their mutual dependency. ‘I protect her and she protects me,’ [artist Emilie] Gossiaux said. On a more universal scale, her art seems to remove barriers between animals and the rest of the natural world.”

And Finally

Via AP: “Photographs capture humpback whale’s Seattle visit.” As the whales breached Elliott Bay waters, we spy The Eagle and the Olympic Sculpture Park in the background!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Vital Traditions, CID Santas, and Zen Mona Lisa

SAM News

At the close of Native American Heritage Month in November, Megan D. Robinson for Art & Object highlighted “10 Must-See Artworks by Indigenous American Artists at the Seattle Art Museum.” 

“Works by contemporary artists are displayed with older historic pieces, creating a visual dialogue that continues throughout the museum…This gives a sense of cultural continuity and showcases the vitality of Indigenous arts and crafts—the very real living tradition of artistic creation in the Native community—while placing it firmly within the greater realm of worldwide arts and culture movements.”

Hannah Mwangi visits Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence for Seattle University’s Spectator, speaking with fellow visitors about their impressions of the exhibition. And Seattle Met includes the exhibition on its list of Things to Do, calling out the free docent tours available every Saturday and Sunday through the run of the show, which closes after January 21.

And Smithsonian Magazine writes up the “expansive” Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection exhibition.

Local News

“ArtSEA: Seattle is brimming with holiday shows”: Crosscut’s Brangien Davis has you covered—in rhyme, no less!—with a poetic round-up of holiday happenings.

Here’s even more festive recommendations, including into the South End, from Jas Keimig of South Seattle Emerald.

Tat Bellamy-Walker of The Seattle Times on the two new Santa Clauses who will be at the Chinatown International District’s Wing Luke Museum for its annual CID Santa photo day.

‘We know that’s what creates goodness,’ [Wing Luke Executive Director Joël] Barraquiel Tan said. ‘We know that’s really what true public safety looks like — when we’re all here together on a regular basis. So, if an Asian American Santa is the clarion call for that, let it be that. We need joy at this time.’”

Inter/National News

Brian Boucher of Artnet brings you “12 Famous Artists Offer Life Advice.”

ArtReview is out with its annual Power 100 list. Catch up on what it means, how they decide, and who made the list.

Via Will Heinrich for The New York Times: The “Zen Mona Lisa” makes a “once-in-a-lifetime trip” to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco for three weeks only.

“An irregular lineup of five orbs, with a sixth in front, absent any background or context and rendered only in tones of gray, the piece, approximately a foot square, exemplifies the kind of stark simplicity and attunement to nature that Americans found so bracing in Zen. It also illustrates just about any Buddhist concept you would care to name.”

And Finally

Via Seattle Met: “Christmas Lights Road Trips in Washington.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Interesting Pictures, Ritual Objects, and Girls in Windows

SAM News

Here’s Margo Vansynghel of the Seattle Times with arts recommendations for December, including Elizabeth Malaska: All Be Your Mirror. The solo show features tour-de-force paintings by the 2022 winner of SAM’s annual prize for Northwest artists, the Betty Bowen Award.

“Malaska’s brushwork is at once vigorous, detailed and patterned, then loose and almost abstract or even droopy and distorted. The result is beautiful, unsettling and varied — and paints a much more interesting picture.”

“A theatrical new Calder exhibition staged in Seattle”: Don’t miss Elena Goukassian’s take for The Art Newspaper on Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection. She highlights the thoughtful curatorial choice to “frame his works as a delightfully subtle kind of performance.” ) She also mentions the playlist drawn from Calder’s own record collection.)

“These are all displayed in a newly configured gallery that features individual “stages” for the larger works, vitrines for the smaller ones and “overlook” balcony views—all with an eye towards spotlighting their theatrical nature.”

For the subscriber-only Airmail, Osman Can Yerebakan interviews the Shirleys and relays the story of the first time they heard Dispersed Objects with Brass Gong make a sound. (Are you patient enough to wait to hear it in the galleries?)

ICYMI! “Legendary Children Brought the House Down”: Jas Keimig and Susan Fried capture the magic for South Seattle Emerald.

Local News

It’s dark. Seattle Met helps with “Where to See Holiday Lights in Seattle.”

For her weekly ArtSEA post, Crosscut Brangien Davis features “art, film, and food to honor Native American Heritage Month.”

“Chehalis artist explores cultural appropriation of Native regalia”: Gayle Clemans for The Seattle Times on Selena Kearney: object/ritual, now on view at Solas Gallery.

“After shifting to a more conceptual art practice, Kearney has thought carefully about how much information to reveal in an image and how much to conceal. In this series, all of the photographs are taken in crisp detail with vivid color, as if they are beautiful documents of cheap, often offensive cultural relics.”

Inter/National News

Via Artnet: “5 Massive Pop Culture Moments From 2023 That Remind Us of Renaissance Paintings.”

Via Artdaily: The first New York solo exhibition for Natalie Ball—featuring never-before-seen works—just opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Ball was the winner of SAM’s 2018 Betty Bowen Award and her work is now on view at SAM. 

David Segal for The New York Times on Girls in the Windows (1960) by Ormond Gigli, a photograph that people keep buying and buying.

“He’s working without an assignment because he wants to memorialize those buildings, which stand directly across the street from his home studio. What he doesn’t know is that the image will become one of the most collected photographs in the history of the medium.”

And Finally

Another video from the Calder Foundation archives: The first performance of Work in Progress at Teatro dell’Opera, 1967–68.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Spotting Calder, The Other Curtis, and Smith’s Curation

SAM News

“Seattle Art Museum Becomes the Alexander Calder Destination with Shirley Family Collection”: Chadd Scott of Forbes tells you everything you need to know about Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection and the future of Calder exploration at SAM.

“By any standard, Calder is an essential. He’s one of the few artists who most people have seen, even if they don’t know it, or his name. They’ve seen his work on the street or in a museum or in a book or on TV. And once introduced, they’ll never forget it–‘oh, that’s a Calder!’”

Ann Binlot of Galerie highlighted the journey of Jon Shirley’s collecting of Calders.

“‘He created a whole new art form,’ said the collector. ‘He created sculpture that’s open to hang in space and incidentally move. There’s just something about how my brain works that I really enjoyed being with the works.’”

José Carlos Diaz, exhibition curator and Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art, appeared on New Day NW to fill host Amity Addrisi in on this exciting moment at SAM when you can see both Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence and Calder: In Motion.

And at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, you’ve got just two weeks left to see Renegade Edo and Paris! Here’s Bob Knetzger for Boing Boing’s take on the prints exhibition.

“It’s a real treat to get to see up close the amazingly precise and exquisitely small Japanese woodcuts—and have them right next to the GIANT lithographed posters advertising Parisian shows and entertainers.”

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Tat Bellamy-Walker—along with videographers Kevin Clark & Lauren Frohne—sits in on a rehearsal of the Jafra Dabke Team, a Seattle-based Palestinian dance group, who performed at LANGSTON this weekend as part of a cultural education and community event. 

“Ties that bind”: Shannon M. Lieberman for Oregon ArtsWatch on a new gallery show of works by Omak, Washington-based Joe Feddersen.

Knute Berger and Stephen Hegg revisit an earlier Mossback Northwest episode, “The Other Curtis Brother,” examining the regional photographer Asahel Curtis. It turns out that the episode generated many new Curtis finds from the public, which the Washington State Historical Society is working to digitize. 

“The digitization is going well but slowly, Berger reports: ‘They can do about a hundred images a day.’ But amazing discoveries are being made already: ‘They’re finding everything from news photos [to] promotional photos of landscapes, pictures of all kinds of people in all walks of life.’”

Inter/National News

Via Brian Boucher of Artnet: “Help! 7 Times People Got Trapped Inside Artworks—Whether by Choice or by Accident.”

“Meet the African Artists Driving a Cultural Renaissance”: Dive into this New York Times multimedia project by Abdi Latif Dahir and Veronica Chambers, part of a larger series on “how Africa’s youth boom is changing the continent, and beyond.”

ARTnews’ Alex Greenberger on the National Gallery of Art’s exhibition of contemporary Native art, “organized with grace” by the artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. (Hot tip: you can see Smith’s dazzling retrospective at SAM next spring!)

“[The exhibition] proves that Native American artists cannot be pigeonholed into one aesthetic—or even one medium—and that their output has taken up the painful remnants of colonialism via a range of subjects. Smith’s exhibition also demonstrates that the struggle for land rights continues to impact not just the objects these artists make, but their outlook on the world as well.”

And Finally

Still digging in the archives thanks to the Calder Foundation: “Sculpture and Constructions, 1944 by Herbert Matter.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

A Monumental Gift Goes On View: Inside Calder: In Motion at SAM

“How can art be realized? Out of volumes, motion, spaces bounded by the great space, the universe.”

– Alexander Calder

This November, SAM begins a long-term commitment to Alexander Calder, the American artist celebrated for revolutionizing sculpture with his renowned mobiles and stabiles. Earlier this year, SAM announced the incredible gift of more than 45 seminal Calder artworks by longtime supporters Jon and Kim Shirley. Their magnificent collection—one of the most important private holdings of Calder’s art—is the result of 35 years of thoughtful collecting. 

Now on view at SAM, Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection thematically highlights pieces from every decade of Calder’s career, dating from the 1920s to the 1970s. The exhibition also includes examples of Calder’s works on paper and an oil painting, among other media, representing the expansiveness of his oeuvre. Sections devoted to his artistic experimentation, natural forces and dynamics, and the artist’s lasting contribution to modern art are also featured.

“As truly serious art must follow the greater laws, and not only appearances, I try to put all the elements in motion in my mobile sculptures. It is a matter of harmonizing these movements, thus arriving at a new possibility of beauty.”

– Alexander Calder

To accentuate the artist’s exploration of height, scale, and movement, the exhibition is installed in the museum’s double-height galleries—a unique space for large-scale works with several overlooks from the floor above. The exhibition design captures a sense of movement, with an S-shaped, curved wall that wraps around the iconic 22-foot-tall sculpture Red Curly Tail (1970) and divides the galleries into a series of vignettes illuminating the exhibition’s themes and highlighting the lyricism of Calder’s creations.

Elsewhere on view are the oil painting The Yellow Disc (1958), a medium that Calder engaged with throughout his career but is not nearly as well known as his sculpture; Untitled (Métaboles) (1969), a mobile the artist created as part of a stage set for a ballet; and Fish (1942). The latter, a significant work from a rare series of mobiles created during and after World War II when metal was scarce, is made of wire framing and found materials.

The central gallery traces Calder’s career, highlighting his achievements across the miniature and the monumental. The expansive Toile d’araignée (1965), an airy, monochromatic mobile hovers over several artworks, including the masterful standing mobile Bougainvillier (1947).

“That others grasp what I have in mind seems unessential, at least as long as they have something else in theirs.”

– Alexander Calder

The final gallery considers the artist’s legacy, with works that demonstrate Calder’s accomplishments throughout his most productive decades and his impact on the evolution of modern art. It includes Untitled (1936), Little Yellow Panel (ca. 1936), Jonah and the Whale (ca. 1940), Untitled (ca. 1942), Constellation with Red Knife (1943), Yellow Stalk with Stone (1953), and Squarish (1970). This gallery also serves as a bridge into the museum’s modern and contemporary galleries.

The Shirley family’s generous gift will also inspire public programs exploring Calder’s artistic practice. Events are planned for both the Seattle Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park and will include talks, tours, performances, art-making workshops, and a family-friendly festival—stay tuned for more details!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

This article first appeared in the October 2023 through January 2024 edition of SAM Magazine and has been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks!

Image: Bougainvillier, 1947, Alexander Calder, 1898-1976, sheet metal, rod, wire, lead, and paint, 78 x 82 x 54 in., Promised gift of Jon and Mary Shirley, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Nicholas Shirley.

Muse/News: Calder Surprises, Cultural Space, and Native Knowledge

SAM News

“A tender new show at the Seattle Art Museum will delight and surprise Calder newbies and connoisseurs alike.” Margo Vansynghel of The Seattle Times reviews Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, which is curated by José Carlos Diaz, SAM’s Susan Brotman Deputy Director of Art. The review appeared in print in the Sunday edition.

“These days, so many institutions find themselves competing with the tumult on our screens or with immersive “museums” where visitors take selfies in front of LED walls. Here, nothing shouts. You can take these sculptures in all at once, but consider taking your time to follow the minuscule movement of a small perforated disc or a wispy metal petal as they react to the movements of our bodies in space. Your patience will be rewarded.”

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis featured the Calder exhibition in her ArtSEA post, sharing details about Calder’s Seattle connections and collector Jon Shirley’s assertion that “everything looks better here than in our house.” 

“Calder wasn’t a fan of imposing “meaning” on his works, preferring instead that they be experienced in the moment—enjoyed for their… physicality and wonder. You’ll have plenty of chances to do so, as this show is the first in a Shirley-funded plan for annual exhibits, programming, and collaborations, including with artists influenced by Calder.”

And Kurt Schlosser of Geekwire spoke with collector Jon Shirley about the former Microsoft executive’s love of in-person art. 

“Shirley said Calder’s hands-on creation of art always appealed to him, and while artificial intelligence is a big deal at Shirley’s former company and across the tech and cultural landscape, art remains a physical creation in his view.”

Local News

Grace Madigan of KNKX reports that ArtsWA has approved grants for 17 arts programs serving military communities and veterans.

Seattle Met names The Boat its “Restaurant of the Year” for how sisters Quynh and Yenvy Pham brilliantly renewed their family’s restaurant’s history as Seattle’s first pho shop.

Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times shares news of another exciting opening event: a new cultural hub for five youth-focused community organizations in the historic King Street train station.

“Olisa Enrico, executive director of the Cultural Space Agency that developed the project, called it ‘a new home here for young artists to thrive, a safe haven for artistic expression.’ It will feed the ‘dreams of young minds, who will find inspiration and a sense of belonging here,’ she told the diverse audience. ‘You belong here.’”

Inter/National News

Via Andy Battaglia of Art in America: “Nicholas Galanin’s Pointed Public Sculpture Inspires Glorious Noise in New York.”

“In quiet yet scrupulous detail, the exhibition asks how the US National Park Service (NPS) shapes the narratives it tells about this country and the lands it claims”: Alexis Clements for Hyperallergic on a new show at LA’s Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI).

Taylor Defoe invites Jaida Grey Eagle to highlight four key works now on view in an exhibition she guest-organized: In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. 

“‘I don’t look at this as a beginning,’ Grey Eagle said, alluding to the colonialist logic of racing to be the first to put a name on something. ‘I look at it as an acknowledgment. There have been many people who have dedicated their lives to this medium and I don’t ever want to erase their work.’ The show, she went on, is about ‘honoring the knowledge that has been there and that museums have failed to support.’”

And Finally

Another gem from the Calder Foundation archives: “From the Circus to the Moon” (1963) by Hans Richter.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 2023, © 2023 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

Muse/News: Tremendous Hokusai, Indigenous Fashion, and a Gentileschi Revealed

SAM News

All that’s fit to print! SAM exhibitions were featured in the print editions of two Sunday newspapers:

Calder: In Motion, The Shirley Family Collection, which opens in the double-height galleries of November 8, was previewed by Tanya Mohn for the New York Times, who told the story of “giving the gift of Calder.”

“‘Because of Jon Shirley’s meticulous collecting,’ said José Carlos Diaz, curator of the show and deputy director for art at the museum, ‘we have representation of basically every type of work Calder did as a professional artist from the ’20s, all the way to his death in 1976. It helps us create one of the most important collections of the 20th century in Seattle.’”

And the just-opened Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence, from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston was reviewed by Gemma Wilson of the Seattle Times, who offered “5 highlights of Seattle Art Museum’s tremendous new Hokusai exhibit.”

“Investigate these prints and you’ll notice the tiny details that give his work such a sense of dynamism: snow blowing in, a hat rolling away, water rushing under a bridge. ‘Landscapes so gorgeous they knocked people’s socks off,’ said [MFA Boston curator Sarah] Thompson.”

The dazzling Hokusai exhibition was also recommended by Mike Davis of KUOW, Charles Mudede of The Stranger, and Brangien Davis of Crosscut (who goes birding in this week’s edition of arts picks).

Local News

Via Margo Vansynghel of the Seattle Times: “Meet Gülgün Kayim, the new director of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture.”

Jas Keimig for South Seattle Emerald on the launch of FILIPINOTOWN Magazine, “a new publication dedicated to highlighting the diversity and strength of the Filipino American community in Seattle.”

Fashion and culture writer Andrew Hoge with his first Seattle Times story on the Eighth Generation blanket that draped actor Lily Gladstone on the cover of British Vogue. (There’s a callback to SAM’s 2018 Double Exposure exhibition.)

“A cover feature is an impressive milestone for any brand. For Eighth Generation, however, it’s an essential step in the company’s mission to flip the narrative on consuming Indigenous culture and art.”

Inter/National News

Hilarie Sheets for the New York Times on the transfer of a five-ton sculpture by Richard Lippold from Lincoln Center to La Guardia Airport.

Elena Goukassian of the Art Newspaper on Ann Philbin’s retirement from The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles after 25 years as its director.

Sarah Cascone of Artnet on how a female nude by Artemisia Gentileschi, once “prudishly censored by heavy drapes of blue,” is now restored by digital imaging technology

“…restoration scientists went over the painting—which curators removed from the ceiling for the first time in its history—with a fine toothed comb, examining every nanometer and every thin layer of paint.”

And Finally

The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones on Ryuichi Sakamoto.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Chloe Collyer.

Muse/News: Fall Arts, Departing Thoughts, and Viva Boterismo

SAM News

It’s the best time of the year: fall arts! Dive into coverage from both The Seattle Times and The Stranger. On our cheat sheet for visual arts coverage is the Seattle Times’ recommendation for “9 Seattle-area art exhibits to catch in fall 2023,” including shoutouts to two huge SAM shows for two iconic artists, Katsushika Hokusai and Alexander Calder; The Stranger includes both shows on its list, too. 

You’ve got two weeks to hit the Central District streets to see the public art outdoor exhibition Femme Noire. It was recently blurbed in The Stranger and Crosscut, and Jas Keimig interviewed Elisheba Johnson of Wa Na Wari about the project for South Seattle Emerald.

“Throughout the day, we’re constantly accosted by all sorts of visual stimuli—cars whooshing past on the street, ads on every conceivable visible space, the endless scroll of our social media feeds. These banners—thoughtfully placed near busy street corners, bus stops, and benches—offer a moment of contemplation and curiosity for the viewer on the street. ‘We’re showcasing, through community partners and public activation, the power of seeing Black art,’ said Johnson.”

“Romantic Weekend Guide for LGBTQ+ Couples”: Jon Bailey for Vacationer Magazine shares the whirlwind details of a recent visit to Seattle with his husband, Triton. Thanks for visiting SAM!

Local News

“The arts are still in recovery.” That’s one respondent to a recent survey of King County arts organizations conducted by the Seattle Times. Reporter Margo Vansynghel shares all the insights on why this fall season will be “crucial” for the arts

And here’s new Seattle Times arts and culture reporter Gemma Wilson on another current trend among regional arts: a “once-in-a-generation” leadership change across various sectors. 

One of those departing—after 15 years at helm!—Sylvia Wolf of the Henry Art Gallery, shares thoughts with Hannelore Sudermann for the University of Washington Magazine.

“She also points to the Frye Art Museum, the Henry and the Seattle Art Museum as fulfilling the notion that civil society is advanced with having art and culture as part of the landscape. Yet with the population and the wealth in the region, there is untapped potential for further elevating the arts here. ‘We could be placing Seattle as one of the best arts cities in the country,’ Wolf says, ‘but we’re not there yet.’”

Inter/National News

Ten years of Culture Type! Victoria L. Valentine shares the “Top 10 Most Read Posts” since the launch of the site that covers art, history, and culture from a Black perspective. 

Will Heinrich gathers “More Than 90 Art Shows and Exhibitions to See This Fall” for the New York Times’ fall arts preview. 

Via Taylor Defoe of Artnet: RIP to Colombian artist Fernando Botero, who passed away at the age of 91.

“Across a seven-decade-long career, Bottero developed a style—sometimes referred to as ‘Boterismo’—that was unmistakably his own. His subjects, often middle-class laborers in moments of leisure or celebration, bore pinched facial features and plump frames. His depictions of food and land were similarly sumptuous. References to European art history shaped his painted scenes; so did a pair of competing impulses under the surface: humor and social critique.”

And Finally

“Seattle’s Lusty Lady marquee comes down.” (Not to worry; it will rise again.)

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

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