Regular readers of Living in Rome will have realised that I'm a frequent visitor to the Palazzo delle Esposizioni which continues to be my favourite arts centre in the city. With its current exhibition of the work of American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976) its curators have once again chosen a perfect subject – it would be difficult to think of a more rewarding space than the cavernous central hallway and high-ceilinged rooms of the Palazzo for displaying his large, suspended mobiles, which sway, albeit gently, in the currents of air moving through the steel rafters of the restructured galleries.
This is an exhaustive show which covers not only sculpture from throughout his entire career – the earliest pieces, a dog and duck made from bent sheets of very thin brass, were created by Calder when he was only eleven! - but also numerous paper works, such as gouache paintings and some delightful early pen and ink sketches of animals. In spite of the scale of the exhibition, however, the work never feels crowded, with every item – be it a wire sculpture, a hanging mobile or a free standing monumental floor piece – given space to breathe. Hercules and Lion and the Guggenheim's wonderfully witty Romulus and Remus, two wire sculptures from 1928, are shown side by side and strongly lit against a white background – the shadows they cast emphasise perfectly how much Calder seemed to be drawing in space with wire.
Looking around me when I visited the show, I noticed that people were smiling more often than not as they gazed at the mobiles – captivated by how sheets of metal suspended on the thinnest of wires could evoke the fluttering, even trembling of leaves or snow flakes.
As the perfect compliment and to fully round out the Calder experience the upper floor of the Palazzo is hosting an exhibition of Photographs of Alexander Calder by Ugo Mulas, which gives a fascinating insight into his working methods, home and studio life. There is also a series of films being projected during the day - most notably by Marcel Duchamp – which feature the artist's work.
If you're in Rome over the holiday season be sure to catch this show! It's unmissable!
Calder is curated by Alexander S. C. Rower and continues at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni until 14 February 2010.
Photo of Romulus and Remus © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Calder Foundation (Web-resolution, fair use).