Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Flamingo Gets a Facelift

I recently spent a few days in downtown Chicago and, as always, whenever I visit the Windy City, I try to drop by and say hello to a few "friends" such as the "Picasso" in Daley Plaza, Chagall's "Four Seasons" on Dearborn St, "Cloud Gate" in Millenium Park, and of course my favorite - the "Flamingo" by Alexander Calder in Federal Plaza.

This visit, however, would be a little different than previous ones. I had read that the Flamingo was undergoing a major 1/4-million-dollar renovation and I was really excited to see what it would look like while "under wraps".

My first impression took me by surprise. It looked like the Flamingo had been carefully boxed up and left at the curb to await the arrival of a huge FedEx truck for pickup and delivery. I half-expected to find a shipping label and a "FRAGILE" sticker slapped on the side somewhere.  I suppose it's understandable that I would feel this way since I've packed up hundreds of mobiles and stabiles and have spent countless hours figuring out ways to deal with the enclosure of unusual and fragile shapes for safe shipping.  I felt like I could relate (in a small way) to the efforts the restoration crew must have taken to enlcose the Flamingo like this.  My understanding is that this was not done to protect the sculpture during restoration, but rather to prevent the byproducts of the restoration process such as dust, paint, and debris from getting distributed in the air all around the plaza.

Calder Flamingo Restoration                 - photo by R.Bissell
My second impression was the same one that I always have every time I visit this amazement of how BIG it is. Looking at it this way, enclosed within a geometric shape, I realized that my house could easily fit inside a container this huge.

As I walked around looking at the "Shrouded Flamingo" from different angles, my third impression was how interesting and beautiful the scaffolding and plastic sheets looked in the early morning light. It was impossible to not make a conparison to a Christo installation.  I've never seen one in person, but having seen this, I think I've probably come away with a close approximation.  It is quite interesting to view a large iconic object completely obscured and gift-wwrapped  in the middle of a city plaza.

Calder Flamingo Restoration                                   - photo by R. Bissell
As far as I know, this is the first major renovation to the Flamingo since its installation more than 38 years ago.  The restoration includes a top coat of an extra durable primer followed by a full repainting in the trademark Calder Red that can be found on so many of his stabiles.  I'm sure that it will be magnificant to see when the restoration is complete but I'm really happy that I was able to see it like was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alexander Calder's 114th birthday

Courtesy "Sweet and Swanky Cakes" via Flickr

It's Alexander Calder's 114th birthday!  I was hoping for a reappearance of the wonderful Google doodle that we saw last year, but I don't see it.

Here is a link to it in case you missed it last year.  It's a great representation of a Calder mobile and you can even make it move around!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Wilco is one of my favorite bands...I even named one of my mobiles "Wilco" because the inspiration for it came to me while listening to their album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot".   I keep hoping that someday I will get an email from Jeff Tweedy asking me to make one for their recording studio.

"Wilco" mobile by Unigami

Wilco is also known (at least by me) for having some of the best concert posters - very original and creative stuff.  I've thought about collecting them.  Here are a few of my favorites.

And here's one that just appeared recently.  I really love this one...a Wilco mobile!

I'd like to think that maybe I had something to do with that particular idea....

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tim Prentice

A new book has been published by one of my all time favorite artists -Tim Prentice, entitled "Drawing On the Air".

If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Prentice, I encourage you to check out his website and to consider purchasing his book.  His work is sometimes described as a mixture of Calder and George Rickey.  I actually like his work better than Rickey...he has a way of creating sublimely minimalistic mobiles that are comprised of complex structural elements that in themselves are a thing of beauty in their repetition, design, and function.  I just love studying the way that he builds these beautiful objects and I'm always thrilled with I spot one in my travels.

Purchase at Amazon

Friday, July 6, 2012

Alexander Calder Flamingo "Travel Edition"

This is a very clever idea by designer Victor Fong - a travelling edition of Calder's monumental sculpture "Flamingo"   Be sure to check out his website for more images.

Victor Fong - Designs

Design by Victor Fong

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A New Calder Gallery

A new Calder gallery has opened at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland. The gallery will feature a series of Calder exhibitions being planned, the first being a tribute to Mary Calder Rower, Calder's daughter, who passed away last year and bequeathed her 1,000+ piece collection of Calder works to the Calder Foundation.

This video features an interview with Theodora Vischer. the curator of the first exhibition, and Sandy Rower, grandson of Alexander Calder and founder/president of the Calder Foundation.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Owsley" Hanging Mobile

"Owsley" - hanging mobile by Unigami