Monday, March 1, 2010

This is a mobile wire sculpture of the French dancer/performer, Josephine Baker constructed by Alexander Calder in the early 1900s. When turned by a crank in the back the sculpture seductively gyrates her hips, which causes subtle vibrations in her upper body and arms. Among other things, Baker was famous for her seductive often almost nude erotic performances. Alexander Calder was a genus at creating graceful, sometimes comic, moving sculptures (or that eluded to motion). Some of his work includes his miniature traveling circus, his mobiles, and in his latter year his larger (more) permanent steel structures.

This particular piece is a caricature in the sense that it portrays a person in one opinionated still, in the stylized lines of the wire. However, being three dimensional as well as mobile, adds another element to the work. We can look at Alexander’s take on how Josephine Baker moved as well as what she looked like. I was thinking about this sculpture in terms of flat and round characters, and I feel this sculpture is pretty flat it the sense that it is not attempting the show Baker's relationship to her time period and other figures within the time period, or making a particular statement. However, there is still something very intriguing about it. It captured her way of moving, her mode of expressing herself to her audience. It is complex (round) in how it is an expression of an expression. It’s almost as if the complexities of it’s structure make up for the lack of information one can draw about Josephine?

It’s interesting in reading about Baker’s history; one can place a unintentional (on the artist’s part) Feminist interpretation on the sculpture. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, in order to make the Baker sculpture move, someone has to rotate the crank in the back. In the video I watched on Calder, I saw Calder rotating the lever. If one were to generalize Calder down to the meager level of a man, one could interpret the piece as indicative that Baker was manipulated by men, and in turn manipulated men by dancing in her seductive way. Josephine Baker was taken advantage of by several men including male producers, especially considering strong evidence that she was a lesbian.

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