Modern Art of Sculpture Essay
Alexander Calder and Isamu Noguchi are well-known names in the history of the sculpture art of the twentieth century. The following artists, who were living and creating at the same historical period of time, had fundamentally different approaches to art creation, but still shared some similarities in techniques. Overall, in spite of the significant differences, both artists managed to redefine the traditional art of sculpture and brought completely new elements to it.
As it was mentioned, Alexander Calder was a famous American sculpture. Interestingly, his choice of professional occupation was not a random matter of chance as Alexander Candle came as a part of the fourth generation in the family line of sculptures. Being exposed to art since the very childhood, the future artist was creating and constructing different objects with a pair of pliers, which served as a first tool for the future artist. He started with creating jewelry for his sister’s dolls using simple copper wire and beads. Surprisingly, after graduation from school Calder opted for studying exact sciences rather than studying art and developing his creative skills. Therefore, Calder took a course of mechanical engineering and applied kinetics at Stevens Institute of Technology located in Hoboken in state of New Jersey (TheArtStory). Later, although Calder devoted himself to the creative work, the passion for technologies influenced tremendously his creations.
Along with creating traditional art works like paintings, jewelry, and static sculptures called stabiles, Alexander Calder become the forerunner in using simple wire in order to create three-dimensional drawings of animals, people portraits, and other objects that inspired the artist. Such dramatically new sculptures referred as “linear sculptures” helped introduce a well-defined line as another fundamental element in sculpture art. His work “Cirque Calder” created in Paris in 1926 became a remarkable piece of art work that gave him an access to the Parisian avant-garde world (Calder Foundation). Alexander Calder continued experimenting with wire and spectrum of found materials to explore the whole volume of these materials potential in creating art pieces. However, along with the professional development, Alexander Calder developed his passion for creating abstract forms in motion. Therefore, very soon figurative wire sculptures were replaced with new art works, where movement element was a major feature. Calder openly questioned the idea of static art and suggested that just if one can compose colors and forms, so one can naturally compose motions as well. The element of movement, firstly represented in his mechanical art creation called Calder’s Circus, became an essential feature of all his creations. Calder invented new form of art presented with hanging art works referred as “mobiles” (TheArtStory).
Calder’s revolutionary introduction of kinetic sculptures known as the “mobiles” made a real breakthrough in the traditional art of sculpture. The artist created a new form of sculpture that would have random chance composition, but connected with an element of motion. A group of detached bodies floating in space was seen by Calder as a perfect source of unity. The disintegrated elements could be of different sizes, colors, and shapes, often surrounded with some gaseous condition or some other substance. The first examples of mobile sculptures created by Calder were moved by the system of motors and cranks. However, very soon the artist elaborated mobiles that worked with the help of natural forces such as light, air currents, humidity, or simply human interaction. His mobile art is also celebrated with his creation .125 located in John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, and “Spirale” mobile owned by the U.N.E.S.C.O. department in Paris. Overall, Alexander Calder managed not only to redefine the traditional art of sculpture, but also to change the concept of an artist, showing it as a performer rather than actual maker of art.
Isamu Noguchi is another famous name in the history of sculpture art of the twentieth century. He was rather an internationalist as he was born in an American-Japanese family and then travelled all around the world. Similarly to the American sculpture artist Alexander Calder, Noguchi did not see art as his first professional option. After school, he was attending Columbia University to study pre-medicine; however, very soon his passion for sculpture took over and made him leave the university. He was creating sculptures, ceramics, architecture, and designs for furniture, gardens and lighting. However, unlikely to Alexander Calder, who was using machines and mechanical elements in his creations, Isamu Noguchi preferred natural materials. He used a wide range of materials such as basalt, granite, balsawood, marble, water, but also metals like stainless steel, cast iron and sheet aluminum. Besides, Isamu did not belong to any particular art movement, acting as an independent artist. He tended to experiment with his creations while blending elements from different cultures and tendencies in art. While Alexander Calder was appealing to the futuristic images using modern technologies, Isamu Noguchi was influenced by different cultures, penetrating its best features. For example, he was inspired by the Italian marble techniques, concepts of tranquil Japanese gardens, and Chinese ink-brush designs.
Later, being inspired by the Constantin Brancusi while working in his studio in Paris, Noguchi moved to modernism and a kind of abstractionism. The artist tended to infuse his creations with lyrical and emotional expressiveness, but also give them a feeling of mystery. Unlike Alexander Calder, who was largely recognized for his art in the USA, Isamu Noguchi was not recognized by American public and critics until 1938 when he commissioned the completed massive sculpture to the Associated Press building located in the famous Rockefeller Center in New York City (“Isamu Noguchi”). The statue was aimed to symbolize the freedom of word and press. Since then, the artist was involved in the process of designing and creation of different objects like whole playgrounds and plazas. The remarkable thing about his art was that by creating his works of art, Noguchi expressed his own beliefs and views. Therefore, he observed his work not only from the perspective of art and aesthetic qualities, but also believed in the social significance of his creations.
Isamu Noguchi’s tendency to creating perfectly-integrated units is vividly presented in his collection of the anthropomorphic sculptures known as “kouros” (Glueck, 2009). Similarly to Alexander Calder, Noguchi created his sculptures in a form of three-dimensional objects, where a clearly defined line would be a key element. The vertical and horizontal lines of kouros were combined in such a way that curvy shapes closely resembled natural shapes of the human bones and skeleton. That is where Noguchi’s initial interest in medicine becomes vivid. Besides, kouros sculptures were skillfully carved with pink marble, the color of which was the closest to the color of human flesh. The vein-like streaks in the marble enforced the illusion of human features of the sculpture. Another key element of kouros design was the interaction of negative and positive spaces. For example, a small hall in the top of a sculpture would symbolize an eye. Finally, the smooth skin-like texture and sleek surface of the well-polished marble finished the surrealistic image of a human (A Closer Look). According to Isamu Noguchi, his creations were a result of the synthesis of the human and totemic.
Kouros sculptures created by Noguchi also had a combination of particular principles of design. Firstly, the free-flowing parts were carved and joint in a very gracious and precise way in order to fit each other and support the perfect balance between different asymmetrical parts. In fact, Noguchi did not use nails or glue to connect the asymmetrical parts. That is where the main difference between Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder lies. Contrary to Noguchi and his perfectly jointed details, Calder was fascinated with creating works composed of many disintegrated elements combined in motion. Secondly, a Noguchi’s sculptures had different emphasis and look if being observed from different angles. It can be explained by the fact that the works were three-dimensional similarly to the works of Alexander Calder. Noguchi was also trying to give an element of movement to a sculpture and fill it with energy. Finally, Noguchi’s kouros sculptures were characterized with the contrasting element, presented by large and small marble details, horizontal and vertical lines, and curved and straight shapes, which would contrast with each other, but still perfectly complemented each other. Alike Alexander Calder, who loved to create large-scale mobiles, Noguchi also made his kouros as the massive sculptures that would tower over its viewers.
To conclude, Alexander Calder and Isamu Noguchi are fundamentally different in their approaches to art; however, they do share some similarities. They both were creating three-dimensional sculptures, where a well-defined line would be a key element of design. Besides, they both tried to add an element of motion to their sculptures. However, Alexander Calder preferred creating surrealistic designs, and argued art being static. He has invented revolutionary mobiles, forms of art with the key element of movement by means of motors or natural forces. Noguchi presented his collection of anthropomorphic sculptures or kouros, created as a result of synthesis of human and totemic. Therefore, while Alexander Calder was appealing to the futurism, Nobuchi was getting his inspiration from history.
Besides, while Alexander saw a unity in the group of disintegrated elements connected with thin road or wires, Nobuchi created perfectly integrated and balanced designs, where the parts would be perfectly joined. However, similarly to Alexander Calder, who reflected his passion for technologies in mobiles, Noguchi’s interest to medicine was also very vividly presented in his human-like kouros sculptures.