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It Speaks to Me: Billy Al Bengston on Calder's 'Hello Girls' at LACMA

October 12, 2011 | 12:15 pm

Calder was extremely gifted, and if you look at all of his art, I’m not sure he didn’t discover and invent modern art — forget about Duchamp. Still to this day, I don’t think anybody completely understands his ability to capture and control space: the big stabiles, the big mobiles, the little teeny-weeny ones, hand-sized. I’m fascinated by everything he does because he seems to do it all with such ease, and nobody has ever made dumber shapes than that. He’s just brave. It’s sort of like Philip Guston, who is a flat-footed painter, and you wonder why he does silly stuff like cigar smokers. This work is a group of three mobiles built into a pond near the Japanese Pavilion — you can go up on a knoll and walk around it. It’s not like going to look at a painting where you’ve got 20 spotlights 30 feet up in the air burning holes in the wall. [“Hello Girls”] is in situ, natural lighting. It will move with the wind. It will change color with the light, whether it’s a gray depressing day or a sunny day. This is a very unusual thing and something I try to emulate myself — I think art should change with the light.
— Billy Al Bengston, as told to Jori Finkel

Image: Alexander Calder's "Hello Girls," 1964, Painted metal. Alexander Calder Estate/Artists Rights Society, New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo courtesy 2011 Museum Association/LACMA.