Calder first gained public recognition and acclaim for wire sculptures he made in Paris in the late 1920s. “I think best in wire,” he once commented. Known for carrying a roll of wire over his shoulder and a pair of pliers in his pocket, Calder bent, pinched, and twisted strands of wire to fashion this distinctive tribute to Josephine Baker, one of the most celebrated performers of her day. Wire’s appeal, Calder explained, is that it “moves of its own volition … jokes and teases,” is “deliberately tantalizing,” and “goes off into wild scrolls and tight tendrils”—a description that suits this exuberant portrait particularly well. Calder’s imaginative “drawings in space,” as he referred to them, delighted the public and led Parisian critics to dub him “The King of Wire.” While Calder eventually dedicated himself to abstract art, wire’s flexibility served as a critical catalyst for his lifelong interest in motion and in the drama of shadows—as this buoyant portrait of Josephine Baker makes evident.
Gallery label from Focus: Alexander Calder, 2007.