Calder: The Conquest of Space – The Later Years: 1940-1976
Alfred A. Knopf, 2020
The second and final volume of this magnificent biography begins during World War II, when Calder – known to all as Sandy – and his wife, Louisa, opened their home to a stream of artists and writers in exile from Europe. In the postwar decades, they divided their time between the United States and France, as Calder made his first monumental public sculptures and received blockbuster commissions that included Expo ’67 in Montreal and the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Jed Perl makes clear how Calder’s radical sculptural imagination shaped the minimalist and kinetic art movements that emerged in the 1960s. And we see, as well, that through everything – their ever-expanding friendships with artists and writers of all stripes; working to end the war in Vietnam; hosting riotous dance parties at their Connecticut home; seeing the “mobile,” Calder’s essential artistic invention, find its way into Webster’s dictionary – Calder and Louisa remained the risk-taking, singularly bohemian couple they had been since first meeting at the end of the Roaring Twenties. The biography ends with Calder’s death in 1976 at the age of seventy-eight – only weeks after an encyclopedic retrospective of his work opened at the Whitney Museum in New York – but leaves us with a new, clearer understanding of his legacy, both as an artist and a man.