Observations and Comments
The monumental sculpture, Tripes, by Alexander Calder was part of the environs in front of U.Va.'s Peabody Hall. The transformation of the landscape could be watched live online. To read the impact of changing atmospheric conditions, like day and night or sunshine and rain, read the observations below.
Friday April 6, 2012
2:00 pm: A sunny Friday afternoon at UVa finds Calder’s stabile Tripes among the hustle bustle of students going to and from class, or just out for a stroll on a nice afternoon, and cars zooming by in both directions. The stabile’s surface, like that of the grass, sidewalk, and road behind it, is dappled in light and shadows cast by the low-hanging trees and the Spring sun. The sculpture’s central plane of repeated, almost identical, curvilinear contours is illuminated, while the remaining surfaces are in shadow. I can’t help but see the stabile as one with the two trees that cast it in shadow. Among the structured, orderly repetition of the arches of the lawn and architecture around it, the stabile offers to the environment an organic contrast - its biomorphic forms are irregular, unpredictable, and transparent. It suggests the movement of the leaves and branches in the wind, of the hustle bustle of people and cars moving in every which way around it with its dynamic contours and ever-changing light effects.
5:30 pm: The sun droops lower in the sky above Tripes, allowing for the stabile to cast a beautiful, long shadow on the grass beneath it. This shadow, along with that which is created on the surface of the stabile itself, paints lovely, decorative shapes on its target that make me think of the patterns of Matisse. The position of the web camera is such that it produces the illusion that one of the stabile’s thin, flat arms that extends from the center of the piece seems to disappear. The only way I am able to perceive its presence is by the lovely patterned shadow it casts on the adjacent arm in view. This play between presence and absence produces a delightful effect. The color of the non-reflective black paint has also altered in this new light, producing values that range from a gentle silver to the blackest of blacks, delineated by shadow. It seems to echo the coloration of the road behind it, bathed in shadows from the overhanging trees, with a similar range in values. The new colors created on the surface of the stabile by this late afternoon light project the dynamic contours all over the sculpture through shadow, creating an even greater dynamism and suggestion of movement. With the setting sun, the stabile has gotten faster.
Saturday April 7, 2012
1:30 pm: It is another sunny afternoon in Charlottesville, VA. Tripes is cast mostly in shadow at this time, showing a shallower range in values – the surface is either illuminated by the sunlight, or dark in shadow. What strikes me about the stabile today is the way in which its contours create a kind of transparency. It is not a mere mass of material that obstructs one’s view of the surrounding environment. When I look at the stabile from this view, I also see the runners out for a jog in the nice weather; I see the tree’s branches extending into and through the contour of the stabile swaying in the light breeze; I see the cars passing through the grounds, occasionally slowing down to observe the sculpture; I see the grass and the earth through the stabile’s right arm where Calder has made a shape of negative space. This transparency engages the environment, it does not thwart it. Just as I see through the trees the lawn resident rocking leisurely in a chair outside his room, I see life and the environment through the transparencies of Tripes. I still can’t help but find more affinity between the sculpture and the trees or nature among it than between the sculpture and the mechanical, metallic cars and buses passing behind (and through) it, or the architecture of the lawn across from it.
5:15 pm: The beauty of Tripes at this time of day leaves me awe-struck for the second day in a row. The Matisse-like patterns that the stabile is creating are even more defined by the brightness of the sunlight, which hits Tripes directly; the only shadows in the circumference of the stabile’s home are created by the sculpture itself. While everything behind the stabile is covered in shadow - the road, the grass, the architecture of the lawn – the stabile is bathed in the brightest light. It sunbathes peacefully in the brilliant sunlight, and mostly alone as much fewer cars and passersby seem to be out and about. At this moment, as I think about the stabile and its relationship to nature - perhaps prompted by sun-bathing on my mind – I am reminded of the ocean. The lines of the left side of the stabile arch upward like a wave, and crash down with the visible right arm of downward sweeping shapes. Today, Tripes interacts with and moves within the atmosphere and space around it like a dynamic wave rising to a peak and crashing down.
Sunday April 8, 2012
12:30 pm: If Tripes was sunbathing yesterday, it is resting in the shade today. Shadows from the nearby trees overtake the stabile, giving it a uniform shady black color. The shadows cast onto the surrounding sunny ground by the stabile itself blend in with those cast by the trees. Again, I can’t help but see the stabile as one among the trees around it, standing tall and firm, projecting similar shadows onto the sunny surface of the ground. In this light, I see something new with Tripes – while the rest of the sculpture is a uniform non-reflective black, the line of the contours seems illuminated, outlining the sculpture with a bright white line. Quite literally, the stabile has a silver lining. So perhaps today, Tripes is a tree and a cloud.
Monday April 9, 2012
1:00 pm: For the first time in this series of entries, I am writing outside in front of Tripes instead of observing it from the webcam on the UVa Arts website. When I entered into the space of the stabile, I immediately recognized how important it is to experience it in person. While the Arts website allows you to observe the changing environment and how the stabile reacts to it, actually interacting with the work as it interacts with the space surrounding it is necessary to fully understand it. As I walked out of Monroe Hall and saw the stabile, the cloudy skies broke for a few minutes, as if they were allowing me to view Tripes in sunlight. I circumvented the sculpture a few times, observing its present light, shadows, and space, and its details. The suggested movement of the stabile that I spoke about previously was enhanced by my own movement around the work as I observed it. After my experience interacting with Tripes in its space, I am convinced that the full effect of the dynamic contours can be felt no other way. The other feature that struck me in my experience with Tripes was its true scale – something that is hard to gauge and understand fully when observing it using the webcam. It struck me as larger than what the webcam suggested it to be. At this moment I realized how unfortunate it is that most students who pass by Tripes every day will take advantage of it, and not truly appreciate it unless they do exactly what I have done this afternoon – circumventing it, observing it in light and shadow, interacting with it in the environment, trying to understand its relationships with the space around it, and thinking about Calder’s intentions and motivations in making this work. For the short time that we have left with Tripes, I believe everyone at the University should be assigned this task.
5:00 pm: Tripes rests serenely under cloudy skies this afternoon. It appears to be a uniform black under this light, except for one smoky shadow cast onto the surface. All of a sudden, as if by request like this morning, the clouds have broken to allow me to see Tripes in sunlight. The beautiful, Matisse-like shadows have returned, just for me. Thinking again about the range of values created in this light, it strikes me that a sculpture made of metal, painted entirely and evenly in a non-reflective black color could be ominous, just due to these factors. But Tripes seems to me to be anything but threatening or gloomy. It seems to be a celebration – of life, of nature with its biomorphic shapes and dynamic contours interacting with the environment. It would be interesting to interview students who have not studied Calder and find out what they see in Tripes: a celebration or an ominous figure.
Tuesday April 10, 2012
3:00 pm: Today I thought that I would observe Tripes at a different time of day as I have been in the previous days. It is very sunny outside, with hardly a cloud in the sky. The wind is also very strong today, shaking the tree branches and whipping the leaves about. As a result, the shadows cast on the ground by the trees are very energetic, barely ever sitting still. Tripes’ shadows are the only ones in the frame of the webcam that are not shifting around on the surface of the ground like some hot bubbling gas. But as I have discussed in the previous blog entries, these shadows are moving in their own way. In the breeze I also see something a little frightening – a white piece of paper or cloth that seems to be attached to the top of one of the curvilinear arms of the stabile like it is a bulletin board. It is quite distracting, but it reminds me of what Calder said in his 1962 interview with Katherine Kuh: he suggests that just for fun, he’d like people to climb over his stabiles. (I am reminded of this because clearly someone has climbed the stabile to attach this piece of paper or cloth to the top.) I’m not sure Calder would have approved of someone fastening a new addition onto his stabile, but perhaps he would have been amused that someone had climbed over it.
7:00 pm: As the sun goes down here in Charlottesville, Tripes rests in shade. Because of the scarce light, the stabile casts only two smoky shadows on the surface of its arms, like the ghost of the seemingly absent but present arm I discussed a few days ago. To Calder’s delight (or dismay), the white piece of paper still sticks to the top extending arm. A dog with white long hair runs excitedly around Tripes, playing fetch with its owner. I think of Feathers and Alexander Calder. The thing that strikes me most about the stabile at this moment in time is how gentle and soft the black color appears in this light. I have not seen it appear this color since I began blogging about the work. The black is so soft that it almost looks navy blue. It makes me think of my observation a few days ago about how Tripes very well could seem ominous due to its color and material, but seems weightless and triumphant, especially at this time of day.
Wednesday April 11, 2012
1:00 pm: I write about Tripes again today from right in front of it. Like Monday, I walk around the sculpture a few times just now to observe it and know it in its present light and space. It is a chilly day and the clouds are hidden behind the sky. As a result, the stabile is a relatively uniform black color, although as I circumvent it, some arms appeared slightly darker than the others. While walking around Tripes, I notice and delight in the fact that each new angle from which you see the work creates a unique shape. I see Tripes in 360 different shapes due to the contour and arrangement of the sheet metal arms that slice the space around them dynamically, composing suggested movement. It is brilliantly dynamic and interesting. Standing on one side of the stabile truly does present a completely different shape and combination of forms as opposed to standing on the opposite side. The uniformity of the non-reflective black paint and flatness and evenness of the sheet metal is completely contrasted in this delightfully dynamic sense of form in space.
5:00 pm: Clouds still cover the sky leaving Tripes in chilly shade. For this last blog entry, I am thinking about the overall effect of Calder’s stabile in this environment, and his work in the world. I see his rhythmic contours, the thin planes of metal that delineate space rather than occupy it with weighty mass; I see a weightlessness and lightness that is unprecedented in sculpture before Calder. I think Amy Goldin characterized stabiles such as Tripes well when she described “the clarity and velocity of the action, the dramatization of swoop, flutter, and drag that release us from the cluttered mechanics of body in mind.” I see Tripes in play with the opposing elements around it of nature and architecture. I see Calder at play with shapes and materials creating lyrical gestures and articulating space rather than mass (as James Johnson Sweeney suggested). However, overall, I see in Tripes the radical inventor and his product, the adventure and novel form of expression that stabiles provide us.
I am glad to have spent this time with Tripes, and will be very sad to see it go.
~ Hayley Coolbaugh, April 2012
Tripes of 1974 is an Alexander Calder sculpture completed just two years before his death. It is a stabile, a term coined by Jean Arp and adopted by Calder in 1932 to refer to his static sculptures (in contrast to “mobile”, the name invented by Marcel Duchamp in 1931 for Calder’s moving sculptures). Although the term stabile was used as early as 1932, Calder didn’t begin producing static sculptures of Tripes’s scale until 1937, when he made Devil Fish, also an all-black bolted stabile composed of cut sheet metal. Calder also used the same material and coloring in Tom’s, another stabile from 1974.
Tripes consists of five vertical flanks of sheet metal meeting at a central point and going out in different directions, each cut to have biomorphic arms (one has two arms and a cut-out shape, three have four arms, and one has five), and it is covered by a very matte black paint. It is currently located at the University of Virginia, placed in an open space between the main road on grounds, administrative buildings, and the libraries. From any single vantage point it is difficult to discern all five flanks--one side seems to disappear or is obstructed, and arms blurs into the other flanks or are created by shadows; instead, as Calder suggested in an interview with Katherine Kuh (1962), one must walk around the stabile to get a full sense of its parts. The black matte paint prevents light from reflecting off the sculpture, and instead light can cast shadows on the flanks. Tripes’s interaction with light and shadow are dependent on the time of day and year as well as the weather. On windy sunny days, the rustling of leaves on a nearby tree is acted out on the stabile by light and shadow. One can get a very different point of view on cloudy days, when the sun casts no shadows on the sculpture. On cloudy days and just after dusk the matte quality of the black paint is emphasized because of this lack of light and shadow. By twilight, the sculpture is barely visible, except for the presence of street lamps and car headlights faintly outlining its shape in light.
~ Colleen M. Bowen, April 12, 2012
Tripes Web Cam Observations
Saturday April 7, 2012
8:25 am: Huge shadow, sunny.
11:00 am: smaller shadow. It is interesting to see the tree leaves move near it because it reminds me of the film we watched in class last time. It is easier to look at it now because the light is hitting different parts of the sculpture, so different parts are darker or lighter shadows of black and grey.
Sunday April 8, 2012
8:25 am: beautiful sunlight, Easter morning. Shadow is long.
8:30 pm: blending in with the darkness, can only see the silhouette
Monday April 9, 2012
8:25 am: shadow is more to statue’s left in the mornings. It is almost like a sundial. The shadow makes it seem less complicated. The areas that stick out today are the side with the whole and the side with 5 jutting out arms. The shadows of the trees and their leaves interfere with Tribe’s shadow.
11:00 am: shadow has moved more towards the statue’s right. It is a lot smaller. Acts like a sundial for different times of the day. Like his first wire sculpture: the rooster. Some parts look even more grey, most likely because sun is shining directly over it.
8:30 pm: totally dark: can barely see it’s outline
Tuesday April 10, 2012
8:25 am- walking to class: see the sun on the road side of Tripes. It looks very natural though because the shadows of the trees are passing over it and swaying
11:00 am: shadow is more center and smaller. Sun more hitting it on all sides
8:30 pm: completely dark can barely see outline
Wednesday April 11, 2012
8:25 am: shadow long.
11:00 am: no shadow because no sun
8:30 pm: can only see silhouette
~ Louise Stellmann, Spring 2012
Calder: Physics and Poetry
For the past three years the University of Virginia has been lucky to house Tripes, Alexander Calder’s 1974 stabile, which stands at 12 feet and is composed of sheet metal, bolts and paint. The stabile is on display in what is often called “Library Quad”, an outdoors area flanked by buildings on three sides and a street on the other. Because this work is exhibited outside, as opposed to a gallery or museum in which conditions such as temperature and light are consistent and carefully regulated, the experience of the viewer is subject to not only weather conditions but also the time of day. I choose to observe Tripes at 11:00 am, 5:00pm, and 11:00pm for the past week and found that the way I as a viewer experienced the piece changed drastically with not only each time but also each viewing.
Being April both the 11:00 am and 5:00pm observations allowed for me to view the sculpture in relation to the sun, the extreme matteness of the black paint assures that there is no reflection or glare from the object allowing the viewer the focus on the shadows created by the position of the sun. Because each panel of Tripes is a unique shape depending on where the sun is in the sky certain panels shadows are superimposed on their neighbors, it seems as if the panels are interacting in a twisting motion; they appear to leap towards one another through their shadows while remaining stabile. Depending on the time of day these shadows shift and lengthen, the extra dimension of motion that they imply changes direction. The sun also allows for the element of nature to become explicit in Tripes, nature is implicit in all of Calder’s work and by exhibiting it in nature this becomes more palpable. The trees which neighbor Tripes superimpose an image of their rustling leaves on the sculpture when the sun strikes them at 11am evoking Burgess Meredith’s film in which images of leaves in the wind were juxtaposed with Calder’s works and workshop.
While on the few grey and almost sunless days we had this week Tripes seems to reflect the mood of the day, or perhaps the mood those days tend to put me in. In the absence of shadows, sunlight and the dancing leaves the sculpture becomes more stoic and the black of the paint even more present as there is no sunlight to dapple the surface and create warmth or variation. Although this is not to say that to experience Tripes on a cloudy day is in anyway an inferior experience, the lack of shadow allows for the awe-inspiring shapes of the panels to be viewed more clearly, instead of seeming to twist one way or another the sculpture seems to be growing upward and outward, reaching and living.
At night Tripes has no system of lighting installed to highlight it, a choice which I admire because it relies for the life of the environment, the lights of the libraries full of students and the headlights of passing cars and busses, for its illumination. Also more noticeable at night is the juxtaposition of Tripes and the surrounding architecture that is illuminated at night. When viewed from the road and facing in on the “Library Quad” one sees Tripes framed by Peabody hall, which like the majority of University of Virginia is built in the neo-classical style. There is a sharp contrast between the two pieces, between the clarity of line and shapes of Peabody’s columns and pediment and the abstract and biomorphic rounded lines and shapes of Tripes. Yet within this juxtaposition one can find unity, Tripes is set in an institution of high learning which strives to create well rounded individuals through a varied education which encompasses the classics as well as the modern.
~ Madeleine Hambleton, Spring 2012
December 2010-March 2011 | Calder Conservation
Upperclassmen may recall that last winter, the Calder sculpture, Tripes, took a short vacation from its usual home in front of Peabody Hall, and was reinstalled, featuring a new, non-reflective coating, in early spring. But where did Tripes go, and why?
Under the direction of the sculpture’s owner, The Calder Foundation, Tripes was removed from Grounds and taken to Manassas, VA for conservation work. To make the trip, the sculpture was disassembled and reassembled at the American Stripping Company in Manassas. There, in a large warehouse, Tripes was refinished with a specialty coating developed exclusively for use on outdoor sculpture by Alexander Calder.
With a gloss reading of only 1%, this coating is the least reflective paint known, and is not commercially available. It was developed as the result of research done in collaboration by the National Gallery of Art (NGA), the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL), and the Calder Foundation in partnership with American Stripping Company.
The NGA and ARL recently began a collaborative effort to develop coatings for painted outdoor sculptures, with a focus on black matte finishes, used widely in contemporary art from the mid- to late-20th century. These finished have proven to be the least stable paints in outdoor environments. Working closely with the estates for Alexander Calder and Tony Smith, the NGA and ARL have developed weather resistant paint with the gloss, color, and textures originally intended by the artists.
Calder’s estate describes the intended black surface of his works as “flat black,” meaning it should have little or no gloss. However, lowering the gloss content of paint makes it less stable in outdoor environments. The new coatings developed through research by the NGA and ARL improve the paint’s durability, match the artist’s desired aesthetic, and comply with increased restrictions in US environmental guidelines.
This research represents important work in the field of conservation. U.Va. is proud to have been a part of this ground-breaking study, which returns Calder’s stabiles to the aesthetic he intended for them. With it’s non-reflective surface, Tripes functions as a shadow, marking the movement of the sun and alluding to the rotation of the earth and the passage of time.
Read more about the move>
October 28, 2011
We have a Calder stabile in my home town, Grand Rapids, Michigan. It
was dedicated in 1969; Alexander Calder was there. It was/is/has
become the greatest addition to that city--it's still The Grand Vitesse today, in every way. I'm so glad we have one of his works on our
Grounds and the Public Art on View live video-cam is a fabulous
Mary P. Abouzeid, Ph.D.
Professor and Director McGuffey/TEMPO Reading Outreach
University of Virginia
October 27, 2011
I have been enjoying the live action feed. Today is a cloudy day and the lines and curves of the sculpture dominate the scope of view. I will miss the leaves on a nearby tree dancing in the wind when they all fall off.
Office of Public Affairs
University of Virginia
The Spring 2011 ARAH459 Class, Calder in Context, was asked to develop text to be used on an information plaque placed next to the sculpture. Below is a compilation of their thoughts and comments.
Calder's Tripes, 1974.
Large, metallic, and abstract, you might wonder what this sculpture is doing in front of Peabody Hall. What is it? Is it art? What is its place here at U.Va., where Jeffersonian architecture reigns supreme? Yes, you have glanced at Tripes, but have you ever really seen it?
Alexander Calder originally studied mechanical engineering. In subsequent years, Calder became one of the most successful American artists of his generation, but his engineering knowledge influenced him to incorporate movement and monumentality into his sculpture.
Fellow artist Jean Arp coined the word "stabiles" for Calder's non-kinetic sculptures. Calder conceived of his stabiles as "urban signals" which set the environment in motion. Pedestrians traversing the diagonal paths in front of Peabody Hall will witness the changing shapes as perceived from multiple viewpoints in different lights, depending on the time of day, and in changing weather and seasons. The work actively responds to the dynamism of the changing environment, as both a unifying force and instigator of change.
Tripes embodies Calder's exploration of space and movement, specifically how a sculpture can occupy, move, and interact with the space around it. A clue to understanding Tripes may be found in the title itself. Tripes is an actual French word used in the phrase "il a joué avec ses tripes" meaning "he put his heart and soul into it," a fitting phrase for this stabile and the University itself. Just as students and faculty respect each other in what they choose to put their heart and soul into, it seems only fitting that we respect and revere a great American artist such as Alexander Calder, who so clearly poured himself into what he loved, his artistic creations.
This work has elicited laughter, confusion, discomfort, and appreciation. Abstract, undulating, and playful, while three dimensional, the form is not simply positive space, weight, and heft. Expertly balancing strength and durability with finesse and delicacy, this stabile embodies Calder's unique perspective of nature, and encourages engagement with it. Perched lightly on the ground, it simultaneously shapes and is shaped by the space that surrounds it. Notice how lightly the monumental object perches on the ground. Watch the shadow progress across the grass as the day grows dark. Be aware of how the matte surface begs to camouflage, sharing the reflective value of the grass and trees around it.
While the sculpture is abstract, its curvilinear shapes evoke countless possibilities. Is it a dancer? Is it a tree? Walk around it. Note how the shapes and shadows move and meld into one another. Tripes moves through space. It is flat and rooted in one spot, but remains fluid and reincarnates its shape at each turn. Regardless of what you choose to see in Calder's Tripes, its large scale asserts its presence. As its shadow moves throughout the day, we are reminded that time is constantly passing and that the earth is constantly moving under our feet. Allow the work stand as a monument to the versatility of knowledge. As you walk home from class or to the library, let Tripes remind you that what you learn in your time at U.Va. will give you countless possibilities for the future.
Tripes is found at a crossroads. This area outside Peabody Hall is one of constant and everyday movement and change. This is one area of the grounds that captures the life of the University. And amongst it all, there is Tripes, a set of flat black metal planes that intersect on a central axis that doesn't move. But at that intersection: something grows. Its arms reach out into our space, and when the sun hits the sculpture, it casts a series of ever- changing shadows on the grassy ground below, leaving an individual meaning to all who encounter it.
Allow Tripes become a part of your daily landscape and your life. Let the interlocking biomorphic forms become dancers, a coral reef, or a blooming tree. Measure your day by its changing shadows, not the flat black against a blue or a gray sky. Challenge yourself to not only look, but to see. Let yourself embrace the abstract, adapting a unique meaning all your own.
Contributions from ARAH459 Calder in Context, Spring 2011:
Edited by Lindsey Hepler