Sunday, September 26, 2010

Innovators vs. Imitators

Hanging mobile artists face a fundamental question: will they be creating mobiles that are just essentially derivations of previous work done by Alexander Calder, or will they try to create something unique and strive to push the medium in a new direction? 

Once an artist has learned the process and techniques necessary for creating a hanging mobile, it really is a fairly simple matter to reproduce a Calder-style piece by using variations of his distinctive shapes and painting them in solid primary colors.  It's easy, it's fun, and clients love it...after all, for most of them, the image of a hanging mobile is defined by the work they have seen by Alexander Calder.

Some of my most popular designs are Calder-style mobiles and stabiles:

"Satori" hanging mobile by Unigami

"Aquilla" hanging mobile by Unigami

"La Mer Digne" hanging mobile by Unigami

If you make a quick search on the Internet you will find many, in fact most, hanging mobile artists are producing mobiles in the Calder tradition.

"Modernist" - Julie Frith
"Big Red" - Dave Vande Vusse
"Jet Set" by Debra Ann
Ebay mobile by unknown artist

As you can see, some of these are very creative and beautiful, and others are less successful.

There is a tipping point I think, when when this type of work becomes so derivative that (at best) it may be more accurately described as a "craft" rather than fine art.  That is not what I want to do. I strive to create unique designs that capture the spirit of Calder, but yet reflect a particular style that I have been developing over the years. I think that my mobiles "Angler", "Questron", and "Orbit" among others, represent the style that I am trying to acheive; something clean, dynamic, and modern looking.  I don't think these look anything like Calder mobiles, but they are close cousins...they are beautiful, they are unique, but they probably are not going to get me a review in American Artist.

"Angler" - hanging mobile by Unigami
"Questron" hanging mobile by Unigami

"Orbit" hanging mobile by Unigami

A few artists have succesfully advanced this form of kinetic sculpture in bold new directions, most notably George Rickey, who began making mobiles very similar to the work of Alexander Calder but eventually branched off into large outdoor geometric inspired sculptures:

"Three Squares Gyratory" - George Rickey

Tim Prentice is one of my favorite artists.  He notes in his artist's statement that he intends to "concentrate on the movement of the piece rather than the object".  He has devised some interesting methods to create walls and ribbons of elements that undulate in the breeze.  I really love his "Zinger" mobile:

Ned Kahn is GOD.  You really have to visit his website and watch the videos to really appreacite how amazing his work is. Using the power of physical science, he has created kinetic sculptures that explore the effects of movement in wind, water, sand, fog, fire, and light.  

"Wind Portal" - Ned Kahn

These are just a few examples of some amazing work by some amazing artists.  I am always inspired and excited when I discover someone working in a new direction.  Leave a comment below and let me know who you like!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"La Grande Vitesse" photo by rdmegr

I found some wonderful photos of Alexander Calder's "La Grande Vitesse" on rdmegr's Flickrstream.  This one is my favorite, in fact it's one of my all time favorite photos of a Calder sculpture:

Visit rdmegr's Calder flickrstream here to see more photos, and be sure to check out more of his wonderful photographs which include art around Grand Rapids, and the Artprize competition:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hans Kooi

Hans Kooi is a Dutch artist who creates kinetic sculptures using wood, stone and magnetism. I really love the minimalist, zen-like, quality of his sculptures.