Striped Man ; Striped Sweater | Alexander Calder

Striped Man ; Striped Sweater 1953 | Painting 28,7 x 42,5 Inch

Discover the biography and all work of the artist

Well-known for his mobiles, graceful balanced constructions in metal that reflected the light in countless ways, Alexander Calder was also a prolific painter, draughtsman and printmaker. His work in oil, gouache and pencil was created on a multitude of materials including canvas, paper and the pages of books and exhibition catalogues, revealing an exhaustive research and study of all kinds of visual imagery. He developed strong and stimulating friendships with leading figures in the European avant-garde movement including Juan Miro, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian.

Striped Man has the raw immediacy of a woodcut. It shows the artist exploring the expressive potential of contrasting black and white and simple geometric shapes, using an extreme economy of means. The use of the word « striped » in the title suggests both the stripes of a garment and also an exposure, or « strip-tease », referring here to the means of representation which is stripped back to its simplest form : the overlapping horizontal lines creating an illusion of infinite space in the background and playful lines sketching out the figure in strong relief, with the face suggested by a few basic features. This set of linear motifs often appeared in Calder’s work during the 1950s. It can be seen in the rigidly composed linear portraits and also in more ambitious colour compositions depicting objects in orbit, figures in a landscape, or a mysterious horizon. However, the immediacy of the image is at its most powerful in this iconic Striped Man who stares out at the viewer.

This piece of work clearly shows the influence of non-western art, studied by the artist during his extensive travels. The 1940s and 1950s were a period of great success for Calder with several international exhibitions held during this time. In 1943 he was the subject of a retrospective at MoMa, curated by Marcel Duchamp. Two years later, he won several major public commissions. In 1948 he exhibited his work in São Paulo and Rio, where he stayed for several months before also spending time in Venezuela. Finally, in 1952, he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale, winning the main sculpture prize.  Impersonal and highly expressive at the same time, Striped Man Striped Sweater uses the symbol of a mask, commonly seen in traditional South American art, possibly suggesting the shamanic trances of the Carioca culture, studied by the artist during his time in Brazil.