Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Calder Jewelry

When my husband was scheduling our summer trip to San Diego, I told him, "Any time after July 25th!" so we could see the exhibit of Alexander Calder's Jewelry at the San Diego Museum of Art. There are 92 pieces on display in two rooms, which represent only a small example of the 1,800 plus pieces he made! There was no picture taking allowed inside the exhibit, but I did sneak a photo outside the exhibit, which shows the portrait of Anjelica Huston wearing The Jealous Husband, which appeared on the cover of New York Times Magazine shortly before Calder's death in 1976. There are also some large photos of Calder hammering wire on an anvil and in his studio on the walls between the jewelry displays. The collection includes many initial brooches that he made for his family and friends. The jewelry is made with continuously coiled wire, sometimes riveted and wrapped, but never soldered or treated with heat. The exhibit really underscores his love for family and friends as most of the pieces shown were gifts to loved ones especially his wife, and the artist is evident in each piece, through visible tool marks from hammer and pliers. I think my family enjoyed the exhibit, maybe not as much as I did (I went back for a second look while they looked at paintings).
I was struck and inspired by the elements I didn't expect, like a wooden box with a brass spiral closure, which Mr. Calder used to transport and ship his jewelry inside of.
He would put a bunch of pieces into these boxes and send them to friends and shops with a book that included pencil drawings of the unnamed pieces for jewelry parties trunk sales. A red check mark indicated a sale and sometimes a name was included. The host of the jewelry party would pack up any unsold pieces and the cash back into the box and send it back to him. Calder also made his own jewelry bust displays, which were very Piccaso-like in facial feature, and suit his earrings perfectly. These are the elements that indicate the business side of his art. He received several offers to duplicate and mass produce his jewelry designs, but rejected them, wanting his pieces to stand on their own as one of a kind objects, like his sculpture. And I couldn't leave without stopping by the gift shop for the Calder Jewelry book, which I have been coveting and have been studying every since. So, if you are in the area, please go see the exhibit, which is on until January 3, 2010. If you can't here's a video I found showing a little of what I saw, while it was in Philadelphia.

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