Mariane Daquet from Atelier spotlights three contemporary artists to introduce to kids and teens with related art activities to try. The first two highlighted are Alexander Calder and Bansky. Tomorrow we highlight Ferdinand-Victor-Eugene-Delacroix.
Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was an American sculptor and painter best-known as the inventor of the mobile, a type of kinetic sculpture composed of shapes that move in response to air movements. An artist-engineer and a consummate tinkerer, he devised clever mechanisms to bring his creations to life.
Calder’s fascination for the circus started when he was around 25 after the publication of circus-themed illustrations in a New York newspaper. It was in 1927 in Paris that he created his famous circus miniature featuring characters made of finely-wrought metal, ingeniously articulated to walk across a tightrope, dance, lift weights, or perform acrobatics in the ring.
The Parisian avant-garde gathered in Calder’s workshop to watch the circus in action. It was described as “a laboratory in which he would develop some of the most original characteristics of his future work.”
The artist would continue to work on Cirque Calder for the rest of his life, constantly adding new elements. His characters were created from a motley assortment of the most basic materials. Their heads, arms, and paws were made of wire while the bodies were made of bottle caps, wine corks, spools, tin cans, clothespins, and all kinds of fabrics.
Cirque Calder is a central piece in Calder’s body of work. It fits into a continuity with his drawings based on observations of animal movements and, with its setting in motion of 3D objects, foreshadows his animated mobiles.
Circus Calder is currently part of the Whitney Museum’s collection in New York. On YouTube, you can find a film of Calder activating the miniature while his wife operates the gramophone on the sidelines: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG6cP2VA0Bg.
Beyond the Canvas
Suitable for: Teens and kids (with parental supervision)
To make your own circus, pick up the following materials, which can be found at any hardware store: a spool of wire fine enough for cutting, a pair of cutting pliers, nylon string, scissors, and gardening gloves if you have sensitive hands.
Gather a collection of bits and bobs to make your characters: chopsticks, corks, colored scrap paper, pieces of fabric, springs, or even damaged toys. Have fun improvising little acrobats and animals, suspend them to nylon strings, animate them with wire, and more.
For the circus backdrop, find a cardboard box, paint it with bright colors, and make a sign with letters cut out of cardboard or shaped with wire.
Light your circus with a bulb or a lamp, and you’re done! Take photos of your creation or make a short stop motion animated film by playing with the shadows, color, framing, and soundtrack. Like Calder, you’re the ringmaster.
Banksy’s real identity is unknown. He is a British artist probably born in 1974 who is a product of the Street Art movement. He started doing graffiti towards the end of the 1980s in Bristol, an English town renown at the time for its active underground music and arts scene. Banksy is famous for his often provocative “interventions” in public places across the world.
He uses stencils, graffiti, mural paintings, wallpaper, sculpture, and installations in public spaces. He also a director. Banksy’s work draws heavily on irony and social engagement, denouncing consumerism, intolerance, and war by attacking symbolic locations, political conflict and decisions, and the superficiality of celebrity culture.
Among his best-known works are the enormous, poetic stencils on the “security wall” that separates Israel and Palestine, his doctoring of 500 Paris Hilton CDs, his graffiti images within several animal enclosures in an English zoo, and his sculpture of a London phone booth slumped over the sidewalk.
Banksy is currently in Syria working alongside NGOs to stop art collectors from speculating on his works, which were torn from walls to be sold on the art market. In 2013, he had someone else set up a pop-up stand in New York’s Central Park. The man sold eight signed canvases for USD 60 each, which were later valued at USD 160,000 apiece by auction houses.
The sky’s the limit for Banksy. In 2005, he managed to slip into some of the most famous art museums in the world and replace some of the paintings with his own creations. Most of them were altered reproductions of famous artworks by artists such as Monet, Millet, and Van Gogh. He transformed them into advertising billboards, tagged them with spray paint, or added characters and objects. Some curators took days to realize that something was off. Some removed them on the spot while others opted to leave them on the walls for a few days longer.
Beyond the Canvas
Suitable for: Teens and older kids
Arm yourself with magazines, scissors, glue, a computer, and a printer.
Pick a piece of art that you’ve seen before, that you like, that you’re familiar with, or that inspires you.
Print it out and introduce objects, words, or images that alter its meaning. Like Banksy, you can imbue them with criticism and irony, or add poetry and personal memories. Let your inspiration guide you.
This article originally appeared on p59-61 of the beijingkids May 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com.
Marianne Daquet is the co-founder of Atelier, an art school in Sanlitun that offers classes for kids, teens, and adults. A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, she has exhibited in France, Beijing, and New York, and her drawings have been published in numerous international magazines. Daquet has lived in Beijing since 2006 and started Atelier with photographer Anaïs Martane after she became mother to two girls.
Photos courtesy of The wondering Angel, Feserc, Mark Fischer and Davidberkowitz (Flickr).