The other day we got an email from our friend A.S.C. Rower, President of the Calder Foundation (we know him as Sandy). It’s subject line read: “More Noise Please!” The title of a poem by the late Steven J. Bernstein, a mutual friend, was the go-ahead for ‘the improvised life’ to feature posts about Rower’s grandfather, Alexander Calder, an idea that’s been in the works for a while. Calder, one of the 20th century’s greatest artists, known for his monumental and kinetic sculptures and mobiles, was possibly one of the world’s most inspired and relentless improvisers. When Sandy heard of ‘the improvised life’s mission, he thought it would be a fine fit.
We thought we’d start our ongoing Calder theme by featuring some pictures of the Calder Foundation space, excerpted from the current World of Interiors. They were made by another close friend and frequent contributor, Maria Robledo (who photographed all of Sally’s books, including The Improvisational Cook). The space, in New York’s Chelsea, houses a vast archive of Calder’s life and work including the ongoing catalogue raisonné, and supports the Foundation’s mission to deepen understanding of Calder’s work and scholarly work; it is not yet open to the public. (Note: The images published here are scans of the magazine and hence don’t have the luminosity of Robledo’s originals.)
We got A LOT of inspiration from the article and our recent visit to the foundation which affirmed our central operating principle: that an improvisational environment begets an improvisational mindset…
World of Interiors’ Kevin Guyer tells of Calder’s birth into a family of artists: “Because of his father’s many public art commissions, the family was constantly moving round the United States. It was a nomadic existence – perpetual motion of a different sort…
…In her moving memoir, Three Alexander Calders, the artist’s older sister, Margaret ‘Peggy’ Hayes, wrote about their temporary homes: ‘Our parents bought only what was necessary, improvising the rest.‘ Perhaps this spirit of invention had lifelong influence on the artist; he would make Christmas gifts for his parents of small, playful sculptures, often with moving parts.”
…We love the Calder screensavers on the foundation’s computers, and have started fashioning our own personal screensavers of favorite artists’s images, including Calders. We get up to take a break from work and return to find some illuminating image on our screen…a reminder of possibilities…
…Sandy worked with architect Francis d’Haene of New York’s D’Apostrophe design firm, known for his clever designs of art galleries, to create the Foundation’s space. D’Haene originally recommended glass walls to enclose Sandy’s office and the conference room, which Sandy found a bit too corporate. “Instead, Rower had the idea of installing window panes – what he calls an ‘honest reference’ both to the history of the building and to the sash windows of the artist’s Roxbury studio.”
We love the idea of building “honest references” into a space. Sandy said it took hours to work out the scale so the windows in the surround and in the door would all be of the same size, thus making a seamless wall when the door is closed. Despite the perfection of its proportions, the glass walls have a pleasingly rough side. From the inside of the room, the glazing putty is apparent, revealing how the wall was made, to us another ‘honest reference’.
Stay tuned for posts about Calder improvisations (including the Roxbury studio) that totally shift the usual view. Meanwhile, you can browse Calder’s work at the foundation’s wonderful online archive.