Saturday, October 11, 2008

Another Wire Legend

Alexander Calder's Jewelry in Wire on Exhibit

If you are in New York, anywhere near the Metropolitan Musuem, between Dec. 9, 2008 and March 1, 2009, you've got to check out the exhibit of Calder wire jewelry.

Alexander Calder is best known for his outdoor sculptures in bright colors, called 'stabiles'. And his kinetic, hanging metal work that he called 'mobiles' - large public art pieces.

But he also created intimate, personal pieces of jewelry for family and friends, from wire and all unique and made by hand. Over his lifetime he created more than 1,800 jewelry pieces, never mass produced, from copper, silver and brass wire. His wife Louisa inspired many pieces he gave to her as gifts, and she turned her bureau into a decorated and mysterious repository of his art gifts of jewelry to her.

He was born July 22, 1898 in Lawnton, Pennsylvania. His family was artistic and his creatvity was encouraged. He started making jewelry as a very young boy, and in Paris in 1928 he started making jewelry for the bohemians of Paris and New York.

Calder's use of wire to create the lines of jewelry inspired many other legendary jewelry artists including Lynne Merchant. He created boxes for storing his jewelry, and during the war he allowed friends to sell his jewelry for him, to help support him. Playful yet sophisticated, his jewelry was owned and worn by Georgia O'Keeffe and the wife of Joan Miro, among many others.

He didn't use solder or heat in forming his jewelry, using instead cold connections with rivets and strategically designed wire wrapping techniques. He used found objects, glass and metal, to create his inventive jewelry designs.

To learn more about him and his art there is an Oral History Interview from 1971 at the archive of the Smithsonian Institution, what better way to learn more about this iconic designer than reading his own words. He died November 11, 1976 in New York. The exhibit of his jewelry designs is side by side with a book with new photographs and examples of his drawings and the jewelry owned and worn by his notable patrons, family and other artists.

He created pins called fibulas based from ancient Roman designs, but gave them a modern new twist and an updated look. Even though the jewelry was designed and created beginning in the 1930's, it looks amazingly contemporary and sophisticated even today.

Still desired and highly sought after by collectors and museums, most of his jewelry is owned by descendants of the original recipients of the gifts because they don't easily part with them.

And the originality and creativity of the wirework continues to inspire new work by current jewelry maker artists.


2 If By Sea said...

Great post, Lynn. I had heard of him and seen one of his pieces on Antiques Roadshow, but didn't know anything about him.

LLYYNN said...

Yeah, Cristi, he's got a great eye for wire and line. Glad you liked the post. I like to remind myself that others have been working in metal way, way before me!

Gaea said...

I was fortunate enough to see a retrospective in my favorite city, San Francisco, in 1998. It was amazing. Even got to see some of the curators trying to fix one of his moving works! His jewelry was such a love story! So simple and speaking volumes! Our son's name is.... Calder!

LLYYNN said...

Wow, I wish I could get close enough to go to the exhibit while it's in NYC, I'm sure they'd have to drag me out at closing time! What facinates me is that he used wire in ways that still seem new and fresh, even though he was virtually inventing the style at the time.

Love the fact that your son's name is Calder, he was a fabulously talented person and so creative and inventive.

jEaN said...

I saw the Calder exhibit in Philadelphia in late September. Believe me, it is a jaw-dropping experience - pictures just don't do these masterpieces justice! Just to be within inches of them was thrilling.

LLYYNN said...

I wish - I wish - I wish ... Am I there? Boy how I wish I could go!

Amanda said...

Oh my gosh, his work is beautiful! I love the... what's the word, free form shapes? The necklace second from the top on the right is just... amazing.
I want to own it.
I know I'll never be able to wrestle it from the hands of the collectors or museum owners who may have it, but.
I can wear it in my dreams. ;)