Forget the shopping and enjoy the best seasonal gift that you or your friends could imagine: LACMA’s pitch-perfect Alexander Calder retrospective. Curated by Stephanie Barron and installed by Frank Gehry in the Resnick Gallery, it’s an ideal fusion of art and architecture, form and space, stillness and motion. Calder and Abstraction, from Avant-Garde to Iconic comprises 50 sculptures and maquettes that trace the artist’s career from 1931 to 1975, the year before his death. Most are grouped in shallow curved bays to encourage visitors to focus on one at a time and surrender to their leisurely rhythms. Gazing at the mobiles as a current of air animates one part and then another, you realize that Calder took the surreal abstractions of Joan Miró, whom he met in Paris in 1928, and added the third dimension of depth and the fourth of time. The compositions are constantly shifting so that each mobile incorporates a multitude.
By Michael Webb
Niemeyer aside, Latin American architecture has received far too little attention in the US, so this scholarly monograph on Lina Bo Bardi (1914-92) is especially welcome. It examines the career of an architect who won attention as a critic and designer in her native Italy, moved to Brazil in 1946, and struggled to realize a radical vision. In her 45 years of residence, she completed only 14 projects, but they include a house of rare distinction and two major public works, all in the city of São Paolo. The MASP Museum of Modern Art comprises glass-walled galleries suspended from two massive, long-span concrete frames, shading a public plaza and revealing the park beyond. The SESC Pompeia Leisure Center is an adult play structure: two raw concrete volumes linked with bridges and lit from biomorphic openings.
Leger: Modern Art and the Metropolis at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a dazzling exhibition with a misleading title. In the 1920s, Berlin, not Paris, defined the metropolis, and German artists had a love-hate relationship with its oppressive streets, flashing lights, and surging crowds. Filmmakers followed their lead—in Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, People on Sunday, and the dystopian vision of Metropolis.
Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture. Rowan Moore (HarperDesign, $30).
Rowan Moore is the outspoken architectural critic of The Observer, one of the last serious newspapers in Britain—a market increasingly dominated by tawdry tabloids. His commentaries on new buildings can be found on the Web site of The Guardian, a liberal daily owned by the same non-profit trust. In Why We Build, he has stepped back to reflect on a broad swathe of architecture and the forces that shape it.
In Focus: Architecture, a small, but exquisite exhibition at the Getty Museum, samples a favorite subject of photographers, from the invention of the medium in 1839 to the present. Architecture in Photographs is the title of a book by Gordon Baldwin, comprising 75 images from the Getty’s fabulous collection, and assistant photography curator Amanda Maddox has selected a third of these for her exhibition. Book and show offer a fascinating commentary on the evolution of the medium and the speed of its growth. Within a decade of the first images by Daguerre in France and Henry Fox Talbot in England, photographers had fanned out across the world, recording monuments, people and natural wonders. The cameras were cumbersome, the processing laborious, but these pioneers were undeterred, and they created a priceless record of a now-vanished world. Monumental buildings were favorite subjects, because they were static, could be pictured in constantly shifting light, and offered a ready-made composition for the photographer to interpret.