December 13, 2010 — Since March 2009, Alexander Calder's monumental sculpture "Tripes" has graced the lawn in front of the University of Virginia's Peabody Hall. The sculpture is on loan from the Calder Foundation in New York and is exhibited as part of an initiative of the University's Committee on Public Art.
On Tuesday from 6:30 to 8 a.m., weather permitting, the sculpture will be removed so that it can undergo needed preservation work at a foundry in Manassas before it returns to the University in six to eight weeks. The Calder Foundation has recently extended the loan of the sculpture to the University through June 2012.
The 12-foot sculpture is made of painted sheet metal and some of the black paint is lifting around the bolts that connect the sculpture pieces, U.Va. Art Museum collections manager Jean Collier said.
"Public sculpture is subject to weather and requires preservation from time to time," Vice Provost for the Arts Elizabeth Hutton Turner said.
An expert on Calder, Turner will use the sculpture in an undergraduate class she is teaching on the sculptor during the spring semester. "The surface is as big an element of the works as the shape of the metal. The paint is a really important element of the minimalist piece," Turner said. "Black and its ability to play the light was very important to Calder."
Conservator Abigail Mack will oversee the project. Mack previously worked with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to adapt a durable type of paint used for military camouflage to matte outdoor sculptures, including works by Calder and Tony Smith. The same technique will be used to preserve "Tripes."
Calder first trained as an engineer before studying at the Art Students League in New York. He worked in both his native United States and his adopted country, France. There, he was influenced by artist friends Joan Miró, Man Ray, Fernand Léger and Piet Mondrian and was introduced to abstract art.
He applied his engineering training, coupled with the visual language of form, color and line of abstract art, to create planar sculpture that seems to defy gravity. He introduced the mobile to the sculpture genre, and created monumental works called stabiles. Calder's work has been described as "drawing in space."
"Tripes," which Calder created in 1974, near the end of his life, is a phantasmagorical tree that changes shape and form as one walks around it. It embodies ideas of innovation, invention and freedom of thought – ideas that Thomas Jefferson himself embraced when he created the University and that are a hallmark of inquiry at U.Va., Turner said.