U.Va. to Host Conference on Renowned Sculptor Alexander Calder

April 01, 2010

April 1, 2010 — On the occasion of the loan of an Alexander Calder mobile and a monumental sculpture from the Calder Foundation in New York City, the University of Virginia will host a trans-disciplinary conference celebrating the transformative inventions of the unique and accomplished 20th-century artist.

"Alexander Calder: Capturing Movement" will be held April 8 and 9 in Campbell Hall, Room 153, and at the U.Va. Art Museum. The conference is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts and the U.Va. Art Museum.

The conference and associated events are free and open to the public, but space is limited. To register, visit here.

Calder's use of motion, intervention, variable composition, performance and chance in his work, as well as the artist's background in engineering and understanding of space and energy, provide the inspiration for a conference examining art, science and innovation.

"Calder's composition of movement matches the velocity of the modern world and attunes us to the contingency of change. As a result, he is a most appropriate starting point for contemporary discussions," said Elizabeth Turner, U.Va.'s vice provost for the arts.

"The conference recognizes the commonality of creativity in science and the arts and the intersection of the two disciplines," said Thomas Skalak, U.Va.'s vice president for research.

The Calder conference includes lectures, demonstrations, installations and colloquia. The U.Va. Art Museum will install both Calder's "Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere" (1932/33), and "O2" (2007), a work by Lithuanian sculptor Zilvinas Kempinas composed of videotape and a fan, for the duration of the two-day conference.

On April 8 at 5 p.m., Alexander S.C. Rower, Calder's grandson and president of the Calder Foundation, will activate Calder's first hanging mobile, "Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere." The conference will then move from the Art Museum to Campbell Hall, where Rower will open the conference with a keynote address, "Calder: Sculptor of Energy," focusing on Calder's early work. Art history students from U.Va.'s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences will respond.

On April 9, the conference will resume at 8 a.m. at the museum, where "Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere" will be triggered a second time and Kempinas will be present for a viewing of his work, "O2." Directly following, Kempinas will join physicist Peter Steinberg and engineering professor Hilary Bart-Smith in a panel entitled "Art, Science and Innovation at Work" moderated by magician Mark Mitton.

In the day's second session, art historian and Calder scholar Arnauld Pierre will present his thesis, "Calder: Movement and Reality." Responses to Pierre's presentation will be offered by astronomy professor Richard Patterson and Petra Reinke from the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, moderated by Turner.

The final panel of the conference, dedicated to "Action and Perception," will bring together U.Va. professors Silvia Salinas Blemker (biomedical engineering), Edward Ford (architecture) and circus expert LaVahn Hoh (drama), in a panel moderated by Mitton.

Additional activities associated with the conference include a dance performance by U.Va. dance lecturer Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp and her students, which will occur in the quarter-mile between the museum and the green outside Peabody Hall, where Calder's stabile "Tripes" (1974) is located.

Museum student docents will also offer tours of "Tripes" and "Untitled" (1976), "Five Black Polygons on Red and Yellow" (1960) and "Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere."

On April 8 from 8 to 10 p.m., films by the late French director Jean Painlevé will be shown outside of Ruffin Hall.

"The filmmaker Jean Painlevé married scientific research with the imaginative spirit of the cultural avant-garde," said Matthew Affron, associate professor and modern art curator at the museum. "Modern artists were astounded by the visionary qualities of his documentary films about the lives of sea creatures in the watery depths."

The movie night brings together three such films, "The Octopus"' (1927), "Caprella and Pantopoda" (1930), and "The Seahorse" (1934), plus Painlevé's 1955 documentary about Alexander Calder's "Circus."

Free parking for the conference is available at Culbreth Road Garage.

Admission to the U.Va. Art Museum is free. It is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For information, visit the museum's Web site.

 — By Jane Ford