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Scaling Up: Alexander Calder and the Problem of Monumentality

Presenters Name: 
Alexander Droesch
Primary Research Mentor: 
Elizabeth Turner
Secondary Research Mentor: 
2:45 - 3:00
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 2:45pm to 3:00pm
Board Room
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Grant Program Recipient: 
Harrison Undergraduate Research Grant

A watershed in the history of his sculptural practice, Alexander Calder’s first monumental stabile, Teodelapio, emerged from a series of favorable circumstances in 1962. For Spoleto, Italy’s open-air exhibition of fifty-three international sculptors, Sculpture in the City, Giovanni Carandente commissioned Calder to design a “triumphal arch” for the ancient hillside town. The result was a monumental work symbolizing, and eternalizing, the modernist invasion of Umbria’s sleepy countryside. Though the Roman impresario envisioned a grand mobile ushering visitors into his unprecedented exhibition of public sculpture, Calder determined a monumental stabile would function as the city gateway. Carandente put it in fewer words: “idea, mobile—intention, stabile—result, eternal.” Cemented in the canon of American modernism as the inventor of the mobile and stabile sculptural form, Calder’s subsequent practice investigated a new line of aesthetic-engineering inquiry: how do these two forms scale up? While critical analysis of Calder’s prewar era spumes in the wake of his nearly six-decade career, only provisional reflections on his highly generative monumental practices reach the contemporary scholar. In this light, I plan to interrogate the origin of Calder’s process for these colossal constructions by researching the first stabile iteration—Teodelapio—and its function in Spoleto. Said differently, how does a radical artist begin working through the unresolved problem of monumentality, namely, when experimenting with the aesthetics of static force?