Alexander Calder found his inspiration in the excitement of the precarious choreography of the circus and the tension inherent in the delicate balance of life in the animal kingdom. "I want to make things that are fun to look at," he said and few artists have so effectively achieved their stated goals. Throughout his career as an artist, Calder created a variety of animals, cut and twisted from metal pieces and found objects from the abundant collection of shapeless scraps he kept in his studio. Many of his abstract works were inspired by formal animal qualities. Although he began as a formally trained painter and draftsman, the playful, animal inspired stabiles and mobiles were to be the expressions that transformed his career. His work, defined by innovative use of line, shape, color and space imbued his creations with a magical quality that pierces the well shielded intellect of an adult observer, inciting childlike, playful and imaginative experiences.
Giraffe was created at the height of Calder’s career and only a few years before he was granted the distinction of becoming the youngest artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. His playful portrayal of the friendly safari animal is an excellent example of the "humor" that defined his creations. There exists a poignant juxtaposition within Calder’s body of work from this time; his brightly colored, whimsical objects, such as Giraffe, were physical manifestations of a perspective in perfect opposition to the rigid norms of the era in which they were created. Calder’s sculptures acted as buoyant counterpoints to the overwhelming tragedy of World War II. Giraffe exudes positivity and potential, demonstrating life's capacity to flourish despite the delicately balanced, even bizarre, compromises made in the unceasing struggle with gravity.
Calder’s animals are not composed of muscle and sinew, yet, as inanimate objects crafted from metal and paint, they seem to breathe, move, and eat; through the artist's vision they come to life. One can feel Calder’s touch on this sculpture - the time and attention paid to careful construction and fitting of the found scrap metal later painted in the classic red, blue and yellow shades. Yet, the magic of Giraffe is in the unseen. A living creature as vulnerable as the viewer emerges from the artist’s construction of steel and welded joints. Giraffe is an impeccable example of Calder’s working method and personal sensibility as well as a true product of his studio brought to life during the height of his unique artistic style.
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