While best known for his mobiles, stabiles, and monumental sculptures, Calder (1898–1976) trained as a painter when he moved to New York City in 1923 to become an artist. Several years later, his first truly abstract works of art were a series of small oil paintings made in the wake of a transformative visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in October 1930. Calder was deeply impressed by the spatial dynamics of the studio, writing later that the visit “gave me a shock that started things..."

Calder familiarized himself with gouache techniques in the thirties, but it was not until the mid- forties that the medium became a key element of his practice. As Jean Lipman explained in her well- known publication Calder’s Universe, these types of “opaque watercolors [were] better suited to his temperament than either transparent watercolors (too pale) or oils (too slow)”. Calder gradually set aside his work with oil to focus on this technique, which suited his “high-spirited, rapid, spontaneous expression.”

In the fifties, the Calder spent eight months in Aix- en-Provence, France, where he lived in two different houses with his family. In each, Calder installed a makeshift studio dedicated to his work with gouache, a medium that he began to cultivate. “I had made gouaches before, but here I was practically doing nothing but gouaches and concentrating on them,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I seemed to develop something new.”

This exhibition focuses on Calder’s particular vision, which was lively, dynamic, and colourful, but also rigorous and transgressive. Through the gouaches we can understand, for the fast-speed they allowed, his most spontaneous creative channels; these works often inspired and responded to his large-scale and sculptural production.

Alexander Calder. Gouaches coincides in time with two major exhibitions in Spain that feature the artist: Calder Stories at Centro Botín, Santander, and Calder-Picasso at the Museo Picasso, Málaga.


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