Where: National Portrait Gallery
When: through August 14, 2011
When I think of Alexander Calder, I think of mobiles or large abstract sculptures. He was, however, a prolific portraitist. He constructed pictures of friends, colleagues and famous persons out of wire; you could think of them as small sculpture-like drawings.
In the first room, you see portraits he did of the owner and director of the Weyhe Gallery, where he had his first show. Those are interesting, but I was more intrigued by the portrait of their assistant, who looks quite tired, and is described as having a "glum expression."' I find assistants are often tired and glum, so I suspect this is an accurate picture of her appearance.
Another interesting portrait is that of John Graham, which hangs from the ceiling. It turns slowly in the air conditioning's breeze, so you can see it from all sides. The shadow it creates on the wall turns as well, which is neat to watch.
I also noticed a portrait of Jean-Paul Sartre, which features eyes that look as if they're on springs. You expect them to pop out at you. This may not be the best picture of Sartre, but I think it captures perfectly my feeling when I'm reading him.
A wonderful looking portrait of Josephine Baker is present only in a photograph. Apparently, it belongs to the National Gallery, and is hanging in its East Building. They refused to lend it for this show, in protest over the removal of the Wojnarowicz video from the Hide/Seek show. The drama that goes on in the museum world! Who knew?
Verdict: Go see this show. The portraits are unconventional and interesting - this is not your run-of-the-mill Calder.