Property from the collection of Maynard and Dede Meyer
Alexander Calder is truly exceptional amongst the greats of 20th century art; not only did he revolutionize the very nature and perception of sculpture as an art form he did so with a sincerity and modesty that is both uncommon and refreshing. When encountering a mobile created by the artist it is impossible not to be fully and wholly entranced by its graceful and fluid movement orchestrated in collaboration with available air-currents. It is this vivacious presence that unifies all of Calder's unique artistic projects, be it the phenomenal wire sculptures of Josephine Baker or the Jewelry animated or brought to life by it's wearer, in turn marking them as fellow member's of a modern bohemian tribe.
"Simplicity of equipment and an adventurous spirit in attacking the unfamiliar or unknown are apt to result in a primitive and rigorous art. Somehow the primitive is usually much stronger than art in which technique and flourish abound."
The Necklace, bracelet and brooch from the collection of Maynard and Dede Meyer are exceptional examples of Calder's Jewelry. All are created from hammered silver wire and bear the mark of Calder's nimble hands and ingenuity. Each piece is a refined investigation into form and function. It is beautiful to note how Calder finishes the clasp of his Necklace to form the beginnings of a curled but yet to be realized spiral and the opposing ends of the bracelet curled more tightly like the full stop of a completed sentence. The brooch itself is an outright homage to the spiral, a form inextricably linked to Calder's day to day visual lexicon.
The hand tooled craftsmanship and repetition of form found in the tribal arts of Africa were known to Calder through popular exhibitions of African tribal arts on view in Paris in the early 1930's. Calder was entranced by the design and purpose of the body decorations on view and was able to reinvent, rather than simply appropriate, the content of these exotic cultures for which the visual arts were essential to daily life and ritual.
Much of Calder's jewelry was created for specific individuals as gifts or tokens of appreciation. However it was also possible, if one was lucky or adventurous enough, to purchase pieces directly from the artist. The Meyer's, a sophisticated couple from the Midwest, were the adventurous type. Maynard, a Yale graduate and a reputable architect (and friend of Buckminster Fuller) was teaching at Yale in 1942 and while driving with Dede through the Connecticut country side one beautiful Sunday afternoon they happened upon Sandy Calder's farm. The couple stopped in and shared dinner with the Calder's and Maynard purchased the bracelet for Dede that evening. A year later, Maynard, about to ship out with the Navy to the Pacific Basin, stopped in at Calder's apartment in Manhattan. Calder pulled the brooch from a wooden chest in his bedroom closet and Maynard bought this too as a gift for his dear wife Dede. The necklace was the final piece added to the collection and was purchased from a Chicago gallery in 1967, most likely as a birthday present for Dede; she had expressed her interest in acquiring a Necklace by Calder and must have been overwhelmed with joy when Maynard presented her with this truly incredible example of Calder's most inspired adornments. The arts provided a great sanctuary for the Meyer's; they shared a deep love of the arts and the Calder jewelry offered from their collection is evidence of their refined connoisseurship and devotion to one another.
Milwaukee Art Center, February 1965.
Milwaukee Art Museum, 2009-2010 (on extended loan).