The laconic Calder downplayed theory, but Perl treasures it. And that works out strangely well, for who but a bold, incredibly knowledgeable critic such as Perl would have the guts to, in essence, read the mind of a sculptor who preferred bending wire to batting around high-minded jargon? … Perl does persuade us that Calder, although inspired by isms — modernism, cubism, abstractionism, surrealism — somehow evaded their constricting clutches and pioneered new forms that evolved from playful to beautiful to monumental. Like Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Duchamp and Mondrian, Calder widened the vocabulary of perception … Those looking for a sleek life story will sometimes be maddened by Perl’s digressions...My recommendation? Relax. Bathe in Perl’s erudition. Enjoy his enthusiastic cat-chasing-butterflies side excursions.
In the first of two planned volumes spanning the life and career of Alexander ‘Sandy’ Calder, the art critic Jed Perl argues that Calder’s greatness sprang from his canny ability to harness time and movement to explore form. Here Perl is following the lead of John Richardson, doing for Calder what Richardson, in his definitive, multi-book opus, has done for Picasso. Exhaustively researched, exuberantly written, Calder: The Conquest of Time captures in exquisite detail the first half of Calder’s life … Calder: The Conquest of Time is a dense but fulfilling read, enriched by an abundance of anecdotes and Perl’s command of art history, making a persuasive case for Calder as a colossus who blended American self-reliance with French intellectualism, looming (literally) over Europe’s avant-garde.
In this volume we meet first Calder the child, then Calder the engineer and, finally, Calder the emerging artist. Mr. Perl describes Calder’s life in mostly chronological order, to a degree of detail that has not previously been achieved … Mr. Perl tells much of the story of Calder’s engineering education and practice in two chapters, one titled ‘The Stevens Institute of Technology’ and the following, ‘Engineering’...But Mr. Perl curiously stops short of pursuing in any depth the influence of engineering study and practice on Calder’s art. Among the aspects of Calder’s engineering career that Mr. Perl plays down is his design of children’s toys, especially those that moved in amusingly animated ways when pulled … Mr. Perl does an excellent job of placing Calder’s work in the context of that of his artistic contemporaries, all the while moving the biographical narrative forward.