Here in New York, it looks like we’re entering yet another grim period of the pandemic, as waves of the virus move through our schools and communities. This looks like another holiday season of sticking close to home, which reminded me of a regular family pastime that’s now been on hold for two years — a trip to the Whitney Museum to visit Calder’s Circus.
After moving to Paris in 1926, Alexander Calder, probably best known as the inventor of the Mobile (a term suggested for his kinetic art by Marcel Duchamp), began building tiny figures and props out of scraps and found objects for his Cirque Calder, which would become one of his most beloved works. Designed to be portable and packed into suitcases, the Circus traveled with Calder and was regularly performed for the avant garde of the day.
Aside from the ingenuity of design and sheer beauty of the pieces, there’s something incredibly endearing about seeing one of the greatest artists of the 20th century putting on a Grandpa-like show of whimsy and imagination.
The two videos below capture the Circus being performed (I have an old VHS tape with a longer version of the performance that I must remember to dig out and digitize). Like the recent video of Mister Rogers’ trip to the crayon factory, I can’t believe I hadn’t yet posted this longtime favorite to The Scholarly Kitchen over the years. So please consider this an early Christmas/Kwanzaa (or late Chanukah) present. In times like these, we must find joy where we can, and watching a master artist having fun with creation is about as joyful as it gets.