Calder-Picasso is the first exhibition in Spain to explore the creative connections between two 20th-century modern masters: American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976) and Málaga-born Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). While the dialogue between Calder and Picasso is filled with endless possibilities, a vital connection can be found in their exploration and exploitation of the void, or the absence of space, which both artists delineated from the figure through to abstraction. Calder and Picasso each dealt with the attributes of presenting or representing nonspace, whether by giving definition to a subtraction of mass, as in Calder’s sculpture, or by expressing contortions of time, as in Picasso’s portraits. Calder externalized the void through curiosity and intellectual expansion, engaging unseen forces in ways that challenge dimensional limitations, or what he called “grandeur immense.” Picasso personalized the exploration, focusing on the emotional inner self: bringing himself inside of each character and collapsing the interpersonal space between author and subject.
Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso – two of the most seminal figures of twentieth-century art – innovated entirely new ways to perceive grand themes. While the resonances between them are filled with endless possibilities, a key connection can be found specifically in their exploration of the void, or the absence of space, which both artists defined from the figure through to abstraction.
Both Picasso and Calder were born in the late 19th century and their respective fathers were classically trained artists. They left their home countries and went to work in France, where they constantly reinvented themselves, destroying their own precedents and those of others, and renewing the art of their time, along with our way perceiving it. While there are certain parallels and synergies in the work of these two icons of modernism, they never came to share their artistic ideas, beyond a mutual interest in popular entertainments such as the circus.
Their personal encounters during their lifetime were also few and far between. They met in 1931, when Calder presented his first exhibition of nonobjective sculptures at Galerie Percier in Paris; Picasso arrived before the vernissage to introduce himself to Calder and spend time with his radical new works. Their paths crossed again in July 1937, in the Spanish Pavilion at the Exposition Internationale in Paris, where Calder’s Mercury Fountain was installed in front of Picasso’s Guernica. Both Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder became celebrities and referents for their generation: the Museum of Modern Art in New York gave a Picasso retrospective in 1940, and one of Calder in 1943. Their works were also shown at the São Paulo Biennial in 1953, and both artists did commissions for the UNESCO in 1958.
The void and non-space
Calder and Picasso wanted to present or represent non-space, whether by giving definition to subtraction of mass, as in Calder’s sculpture or by expressing contortions of time, as in Picasso’s portraits. Calder externalized the void through curiosity and intellectual expansion, engaging unseen forces in ways that challenge dimensional limitations, or what he called “grandeur- immense.” Picasso personalized the exploration, focusing on the emotional inner self. He brought himself inside each character and collapsed the interpersonal space between author and subject.
Calder was a prolific artist who challenged conventional Euclidean space, going beyond the three classical dimensions of height, width, and depth by exploring the fourth dimension of time. His figurative wire sculptures—defined by critics in 1929 as “drawings in space”—delineate transparent volumes, echoed by the shadows they project onto the wall. The composition of his nonobjective mobiles are infinitely variable, activated by the caprices of nature, blurring the boundaries between painting, sculpture, and choreography and energizing space in unpredictable ways. Through the planar power of his monumental stabiles, Calder reset the traditional relationship between volume and void.
To the tireless Picasso, the void was expressed as creative urgency, born of his awareness of mortality. In his drawings, paintings and sculpture, we come across the same principle of creating a figure by adding organic shapes and an unexpected way of handling volume within the confines of the canvas. As Picasso simplified or purified the solidity of a figure, he gained access to the truth of the sitter.
The exhibition Calder-Picasso is organized in partnership with the Calder Foundation, New York and the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte (FABA). It is a coproduction with the Musée national Picasso-Paris where it will be shown from February 19 to August 25, 2019. Jointly curated by Alexander S. C. Rower, Calder Foundation, New York; Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, FABA; Claire Garnier and Emilia Philippot, Musée national Picasso-Paris, in the Museo Picasso Málaga it will showcase around 110 artworks.
MUSEO PICASSO MÁLAGA, Palacio de Buenavista C/ San Agustín, 8, 29015 Málaga | Spain
Alexander Calder (1898-1976) Mobile, c. 1937. Wood, sheet metal, rod, string, wire, and paint. Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki © 2019 Calder Foundation, New York / VEGAP, Madrid.