Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Inscribed "AULA MAGNA/-Caracas" l.l. and "STAGE RIGHT" l.c., dated and signed "July 2, 1952/A. Calder" l.r.
Gouache, pencil, and ink on blueprint paper, sheet size 13 3/8 x 24 in. (33.8 x 61.0 cm), framed.
Condition: Toning, mat burn, tack holes to l.l. corner, handling creases, acid burn, remnants of old hinges at intervals around perimeter of the reverse.
Provenance: Gift (1952) from the artist to Robert Bradford Newman (1917-1983), professor of architectural acoustics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and co-founder of Bolt, Beranek and Newman Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts; to Mary Shaw Newman in 1983; to the estate of Mary Shaw Newman.
Literature: Robert B. and Mary S. Newman Collection (Boston: J. Schwartz Design, 2014), illustrated (color) p. 11.
N.B. This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, as application number A26188.
By the 1950s, Alexander Calder had become an internationally recognized and respected artist. He was chosen to represent the United States in the 1952 Venice Biennale at which he won the grand prize for sculpture. That same year, he designed sets and costumes for the play Nuclea which opened in Paris, he worked on the design for a fountain for architect Eero Saarinen's General Motors Technical Center project in Michigan, and he accepted a commission from architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva to design an acoustic ceiling for Aula Magna, the auditorium of the Universidad Central de Venezuela.
Initially, Villanueva suggested Calder create a mobile for the lobby of Aula Magna. Calder, however, preferred the idea of making something for the auditorium. Villanueva conceded, with the caveat that Calder would need to collaborate with the acoustical consulting firm, Bolt, Beranek and Newman. Calder and Robert Newman, a professor at M.I.T. and a scholar of physics, architecture and acoustics, worked together to create large round and oval shapes, some as long as thirty feet, that would serve as acoustic reflectors. Calder used the abstract forms and primary colors characteristic of his mobiles for the panels, which would hang from the ceiling and be affixed to the walls of the auditorium. Calder and Newman developed a system of steel cables and pulleys to suspend the objects from the ceiling, allowing them to be adjusted for different types of performances. As a memento of their partnership, Calder gave this study for the design of the auditorium to Newman.
The post-war building boom of the 1950s and 1960s increased the demand for public art in sites such as corporate lobbies, city plazas, and airports. Calder eagerly accepted hundreds of commissions for large-scale sculptures. His fun, light-hearted, and graceful designs coordinated well with the International Style of mid-twentieth century architecture and delighted viewers. The Aula Magna project proved successful, as both a grand art installation and a sound acoustical design.
Hinged to window mat in three places on the top edge of the reverse with linen tape over old hinges. The paper is brittle. Toning is significant and is paler in the areas covered by the mat. Most prominent creases are to the l.r. beside and over the "A." of Calder's signature (2 1/2 in. and 1-1.2 in. crease in an X-shape that straddles the top of the initial), between "July" and "2" l.c., and to the right of "Caracas" l.l. A small 3/8 inch tear to the l.l. bottom edge which is stabilized by tape on the reverse. Subtle rippling to the sheet at u.c.
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