We walked into a gallery at the Nasher Museum the other day and our feet began to lift out of our shoes.
The familiar walls, floor and ceiling felt like some sort of anti-gravity chamber. Bright spots of color. A gentle bouncing and swaying. We found ourselves wondering: Which way is up?
Our two main pavilions for traveling exhibitions have been transformed with the installation of “Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy.” The show opens February 16.
The idea behind the exhibition is to pair 32 master works by Calder with works by seven young artists: Martin Boyce, Nathan Carter, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Aaron Curry, Kristi Lippire, Jason Meadows and Jason Middlebrook. The Nasher Museum is the fourth and final venue for the exhibition.
Here at the Nasher Museum, coordinating curator Sarah Schroth decided to isolate each work of art so that visitors might compare them more easily.
“For me, the curatorial idea is for the public to be able to make the connections,” said Sarah, who is the Nancy Hanks Senior Curator at the Nasher Museum. “When you isolate a work of art, almost always it looks better.”
Calder was a trained mechanical engineer. The young artists talk about how difficult it is to create mobiles and how they have learned so much from the master, Sarah said. “It’s exciting because it’s a return to formalism and there’s not a lot of conceptual art going on here.”
The installation has been arduous and complicated. We need a team of 10 to 12 people to hang each Calder mobile. The surfaces of the pieces, hand painted by Calder himself, are quite delicate. Many hands must hold all of the phalanges steady while Patrick Krivacka, our wood shop manager, adjusts and crimps the main support wire.
We called in reinforcements, including five local artists: sculptor Jeff Bell, painter Warren Hicks, frame conservator David Baudin, artist and musician Harrison Haynes, sound and conceptual artist Drew Robertson.
An audio story about Calder will air Saturday during the Duke Men’s Basketball game vs. Maryland. Locally, it will air between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on 620 AM, “The Buzz.” Listen to it on Duke’s iTunes U site.
IMAGE: Patrick Krivacka, wood shop manager at the Nasher Museum, carefully crimps the main support wire for a mobile while other installers hold it steady. Photo by Dr. J Caldwell.
Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. The exhibition is sponsored by The Northern Trust Company. Lead foundation support is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Chicago Community Trust. Major support for the exhibition is generously provided by The Kenneth and Anne Griffin Foundation. Additional generous support is provided by Margot and George Greig, Anne and Burt Kaplan, Ruth Horwich, The Broad Art Foundation, Gagosian Gallery, Lindy Bergman, Helyn Goldenberg, Sara Szold, and The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.
At the Nasher Museum, major individual support for the exhibition is provided by Frances P. Rollins, Marilyn M. Arthur, Trent and Susan Carmichael, Drs. Victor and Lenore Behar, Kathi and Stephen Eason, and Mindy and Guy Solie. Additional generous support is provided by Deborah DeMott, Nancy Palmer Wardropper, The E. T. Rollins Jr. and Frances P. Rollins Fund, Jo and Peter Baer, Paula and Eugene Flood, Pepper and Donald Fluke, Kelly Braddy Van Winkle and Lance Van Winkle, Carolyn Aaronson, Diane Evia-Lanevi and Ingemar Lanevi, Caroline and Arthur Rogers, Angela O. Terry, and Richard Tigner. Major corporate and grant support for the exhibition is provided by the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, NetApp, and the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources. Additional support is provided by Carolina Biological Supply Company, Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, The Research Triangle Park, Parker and Otis, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, Clinical Ambassador, American Scientist magazine, and Tech Shop.
Nasher Museum exhibitions and programs are generously supported by the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Mary D.B.T. Semans and the late James H. Semans, the late Frank E. Hanscom III, The Duke Endowment, the Nancy Hanks Endowment, the James Hustead Semans Memorial Fund, the K. Brantley and Maxine E. Watson Endowment Fund, the Neely Family Fund, the Janine and J. Tomilson Hill Family Fund, the Marilyn M. Arthur Fund, the E. T. Rollins, Jr. and Frances P. Rollins Fund, the Victor and Lenore Behar Endowment Fund, the George W. and Viola Mitchell Fearnside Endowment Fund, the Sarah Schroth Fund, the Margaret Elizabeth Collett Fund, the Nasher Museum of Art General Endowment, the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost, Duke University, and the Friends of the Nasher Museum of Art.