El Sol Rojo #Alexander Calder

Despite hailing from a lineage of sculptors, Alexander Calder did not originally intend on becoming one himself. After high school, he enrolled at the Stevens Institute of Technology and graduated in 1919 with a degree in mechanical engineering. 

unnam red sunIn June 1922, he found work as a mechanic on the passenger ship H. F. Alexander. The ship sailed from San Francisco to New York City, and Calder slept on deck. Early one morning, as the ship was just off the Guatemalan Coast, he witnessed both the sun rising in the East and the full moon setting on the opposite horizon. He described in his autobiography, “on a calm sea, off Guatemala, I saw the beginning of a fiery red sunrise on one side and the moon looking like a silver coin on the other.” This image remained with Calder, and would appear years later in his works.

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Calder is known for his sculpture, however, he was also talented painter, engraver, and printmaker. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Calder produced gouache paintings depicting the same swirling, abstract forms found in his mobiles and stabiles. Numerous lithographs were produced from these paintings, and many of these works on paper were studies for his 3-dimensional works. 

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Seascape. Seascape is almost the perfect representation of the early morning scene Calder witnessed off the Guatemalan coast in 1922. The fiery red sun that Calder never forgot was still fresh in his mind almost 4 decades later. The bold colors and flat but soft shapes are distinctly representative of Calder’s visual lexicon and it is easy to imagine the forms balancing and swaying on a mobile. 

unnamedHowever, if Seascape served as a study, Calder had much grander plans for it than a mobile. 

In the 60’s, Calder was invited by the Mexican Cultural Olympiad Committee to produce a monumental stabile outside the “Estadio Azteca” (Aztec Stadium) in Mexico City. At over 84 feet high, his tallest creation, “El Sol Rojo” (The Red Sun) is a 3-dimensional replica of Seascape. The sculpture has remained at the stadium since its installation, greeting fans at the 1968 Olympic games, but also those attending the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals. 

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