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Alexander Calder's 1964 'Hello Girls' back on view at LACMA

May 12, 2009 | 12:00 pm

Just in time for jacaranda season, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has completed initial repairs on Alexander Calder's 1964 standing-mobile fountain "Hello Girls."

Again.

Commissioned by a women's museum-support group when LACMA first opened on Wilshire Boulevard 44 years ago, the Calder was one bit of proof that digging a fountain into the La Brea tar pits could be a problem. Oily black ooze kept gumming up the works, and the reflecting pools that surrounded the new museum complex were eventually drained. The sculpture was moved into storage and then onto dry land, where the revolving paddles regularly got stuck in surrounding evergreens. For a while in the 1980s it was lent to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Finally it went back to LACMA and into a new pool. Still, the wind-and-water-sensitive sculpture didn't work quite right.

Actually there was a bad omen for the piece right from the start. Calder (1898-1976) came to Los Angeles to install the $30,000 sculpture (about $200,000 in today's currency) in December 1964; but the van that drove the work from the artist's Connecticut studio had problems and ended up in a storage barn. The sculpture, composed of three triangular bases with carefully balanced metal arms and paddles, was packed all the way in the back and couldn't be unloaded. Calder cooled his heels while a scheduled press event went on using only a model for the sculpture.

Now, according to LACMA's blog, Unframed, the water circulation issues have been solved. Next up: a paint job for the paddles, which should be vibrant red, yellow, blue, black and white but are currently somewhat faded.

The pool is at the southeast corner of the Leo S. Bing Theater, just to the right of the museum's east entrance on Wilshire Boulevard at Spaulding Avenue. See it before the purple jacaranda blossoms get into the recirculating system.

--Christopher Knight

Photo credit: Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times

 
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