Calder: The Conquest of Space; The Later Years; 1940–1976

Knopf. Apr. 2020. 688p. ISBN 9780451494115. $60. FINE ARTS
Art critic Perl concludes his survey of the life of Alexander Calder (1898–1976) with this second and final volume of an exhaustively researched and profusely illustrated biography. This study charts Calder’s rise from top-tier American artist, his mobiles a ubiquitous presence in the 1950s, to an international figure of the 1960s and 1970s completing commissions of monumental outdoor sculptures in Brazil, Mexico, and elsewhere globally, these works the very sign of postwar modernism and international-style architecture. Perl does a fine job, too, of introducing readers to the lesser-known Calder: paintings, graphic works, jewelry, and collaborations with avant-garde composers, such as Earle Brown. This surprisingly first full-length biography of Calder (an autobiography was published in the mid-1960s) offers a wealth of detail about the artist’s family life, social circle, and voluminous production. For casual readers, there may be both too much and also too little detail, making Calder an enigma within his own story, a challenge to any biographer—a bluff, hearty presence whose inner life and aesthetic ideas nevertheless seem hard to discern.
VERDICT For readers interested in Calder and postwar modernism, the wealth of facts, anecdotes, and analysis here will be welcome. [See Prepub Alert, 11/11/19.]

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