Life, in 2D
Alexander Calder's Gouache Works on Paper
One of the most celebrated artists of the twentieth century, Alexander Calder is perhaps most widely remembered for his work in three dimensions as the inventor of mobiles, "stabiles", and wire "drawings in space." In 1953, however, a yearlong stay in Aix-en-Provence afforded an established Calder the opportunity to hone his focus on the two-dimensional plane. It was here—first in a house with no electricity, and then in a house alleged to be haunted—that Calder practiced and perfected translating his jubilant sculptures onto paper, and was later able to create such works as Yin, Yang and Pinwheel (1969). Using his preferred medium of gouache, Calder was able to express themes that defined his kinetic sculpture—fluidity of motion and a distillation of cosmic arrangements.
Yin, Yang and Pinwheel is exemplary of Calder's seamless adaptation of his sculptures' bold geometry, sense of motion, and overall joie de vivre to an alternate medium. Calder claimed that the basis of everything he made was the universe; this expansive view is on full symbolic display in Yin, Yang and Pinwheel with a bird-like pinwheel and its spiraling center, yin and yangs of duality, and circular forms for planets, cells, or seeds. The use of primary colors (with touches of orange and black) underscores Calder's preoccupation with rendering his world as a series of elemental and joyful forms.