As people drifted in and out of the Cahiers d’Art gallery space and headquarters at 14 rue du Dragon on Paris’ Left Bank last night, Staffan Ahrenberg and Alexander S. C. Rower commenced the second leg of what has serendipitously shaped up to be a three-part Calder caravan. Just hours earlier, the patron saint of the historic twentieth-century journal and publishing house, and the grandson of the legendary artist, respectively, had been in Moscow participating in the opening of a Calder retrospective at the Pushkin State Museum, which Rower curated. Over the weekend, Rower and his small entourage will head to Zurich for Hauser & Wirth’s compelling double bill of Alexander Calder and Francis Picabia, titled Transparence.
For now, however, they seemed content to host a group numbering no more than 30 for a dinner to mark the release of the latest Cahiers d’Art revue, Calder in France. The occasion was further enhanced by an exhibition of paper maquettes old and new from Warsaw-based Monika Sosnowska, who spent time at the artist’s longtime studio in Saché France as part Atelier Calder, the residency program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
If all this Calder-centric overlap hasn’t made your head spin, consider that Cahiers d’Art’s original founders, Christian and Yvonne Zervos, were among the first to publish photos of the American artist’s mobile sculptures in the 1930s.
Occupying the innermost pages of this latest issue are 19 of Calder’s 'transitional' paintings from that same period (seven from the Beyeler Foundation in Basel), which have never been published together. For some, though, the real gem will be a collotype reproduction on Japanese paper of a copper plate from the early 40s, never editioned by Calder during his lifetime. The untitled etching presents a medley of natural elements that transcend the plane of the page as if in giddy harmony.
Before the meal, Rower who, like his grandfather, is known as 'Sandy', told Wallpaper* that while the impetus of the book may have been the residency milestone, the idea lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. 'No one wants to buy a book with 50 little sections on artists, no matter what the subject is — even with the Calder brand name. That’s not a sexy book,' quipped Rower, who is the chairman of the Calder Foundation, based in New York. Hence additional features from Hans Ulrich Obrist who interviews three past residents, a witty two-page installation from Darren Bader, and a conversation between Agnès Varda, a Calder confidante, and Joan Simon.
Cue Varda herself, who greeted a 50-something Rower with the sobriquet of 'jeune homme' (young man). 'Hey Varda, how the hell are ya?' was how he welcomed the French director, who became the first woman to receive an honourary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival just last month.
By the time the group migrated across the street to the Cahiers d’Art secondary space, left empty save for the extra-long dining table and a grouping of minimalist white-painted ceiling lamps created specially by Sosnowska (the edition of 50 is available for sale), the realisation struck that there was not a single physical piece of Calder presiding over the festivities. That is, until the presentation of Bernardaud porcelain plates that depicted an array of mobiles in black and red. The series debuted during FIAC last year and was produced in collaboration with the Calder Foundation. Picture the meta-moment of Gryphon Rower-Upjohn, Rower’s son, scooping pasta onto tableware bearing the creations of his great-grandfather. The 25-year-old experimental music producer and songwriter is currently at work on an album and a 2016 sound show in Marfa, Texas — which, in a way, represents a fitting evolution of Calder’s own lesser-known exploration of sound.
The tiramisu quickly consumed, Rower began signing copies of the revue with gusto. Its emerald-hued cover, he insisted, is not as counter-Calder as one think, flipping to one of the painting prints inside for proof that the artist was not restricted to a palette of red, blue and yellow. For Ahrenberg, his pen produced the undulating lines of a mouth with shadowed block lettering addressed to 'Staff-Ann.' 'Pronounce it right and be friends forever!' Rower wrote, signing his name with an “A” and a petal-trimmed heart.