Calder and Picasso: A Limitless Ingenuity

Calder and Picasso: A Limitless Ingenuity

Calder, Picasso y la inventiva sin límites

Ana Girard

Calder-Picasso is a one-of-a kind exhibition currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. This exhibit has captivated and awakened the curiosity of many, including connoisseurs and aficionados. Throughout the gallery, interesting stylistic and conceptual correlations can be found between the works of two great artists of the 20th century: Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso. They both shared similar artistic interests which are highlighted in this exhibition.

Many of Calder’s artworks, commonly known as mobiles and stabiles, and Picasso’s works contrast and complement one another. This is because Calder and Picasso defied the traditional norms of art by experimenting not only with materials but also concepts such as the void, space, shape, density, movement, distortion, and volume, just to mention a few, creating abstract silhouettes with great presence.

As a child, Calder had already created toys and miniature figures like those of a circus. This equipped him to create his later acclaimed mobiles that move while suspended. He also created original drawings and sculptures using one continuous line, which requires great skill. Picasso, another natural genius, was not only one of the greatest representatives of Cubism, but he also experimented with the expressivity of lines, volume, and form as ways to depict the world that surrounded him. Even though Calder and Picasso were not really friends, they did know and admire each other, and they crossed paths more than once.

It is notable that both artists shared a deep interest in the human form and its corporeality. For example, the curvy contours in Picasso’s Nu Couche or Reclined Nude and Calder’s Croisière are prominent in the exhibition. Despite one being a painting and the other a wire sculpture, both display organic lines and contours that activate the void spaces giving them dimensionality and bringing them to life. These contours add an aspect of contortionism (like seen in the circus) and a sort of disfigured look to both artists’ works. These elements are also visible in Calder and Picasso’s Acrobat. However, these elements do not take away but give elegance and grace to the figures.

Many of the artworks in this exhibition present opposite characteristics. Picasso’s figures are voluminous and wide, while Calder’s are narrow and elongated. Nevertheless, they show various similarities. Part of the success of this exhibit is that viewers really enjoy the process of exploring the contrasts and associations by themselves.

When standing in the galleries, it seems that everything emanates movement and has an active presence. It is the juxtaposition of Calder and Picasso’s works side by side that makes this an original exhibition and that creates a special synergy worthy of the entrance ticket.

Surprisingly and at the end of the exhibition, a monumental sculpture by Calder awaits visitors. This work is representative of the large-scale creations that both Calder and Picasso worked on during the mature stages of their careers to be exhibited outdoors and publicly. In this extraordinary exhibition, Calder and Picasso’s multifaceted works remind us that when it comes to art, imagination and ingenuity are limitless.


*Cover Images: Alexander Calder Acrobat 1929 . Pablo Picasso Acrobate, 1930

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