Museum  November 29, 2017  Megan D Robinson

Koons and Calder Make a Playful Match at MCA Chicago

Courtesy MCA Chicago

Alexander Calder, Little Face, c. 1943 © 2017 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Heaven and Earth: Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611

October 21, 2017 through December 16, 2018

As part of its 50th anniversary, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Heaven and Earth: Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons, which explores the unexpected synergy of two art icons. Calder, best known for his abstract, ethereal mobiles, represents “Heaven.” Koons, with his sculptural glorification of everyday objects, represents “Earth.” Both artists have played important roles in the history of the MCA, making the exploration of their works together an apt way to mark this anniversary year.

James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling expertly arranged the exhibit, encouraging a charming interplay between the work of these seemingly disparate artists. Darling says he formed unusual pairings to encourage visitors to see connections they might have missed otherwise, which “creates an intergenerational dialogue that is important for a museum to do in order to keep historical works alive and fresh for our moment.”

Jeff Koons, Lifeboat
Courtesy MCA Chicago

Jeff Koons, Lifeboat, 1985 © Jeff Koons Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Alexander Calder, Performing Seal
Courtesy MCA Chicago

Alexander Calder, Performing Seal, 1950 © 2017 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Jeff Koons, Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank
Courtesy MCA Chicago

Jeff Koons, Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Dr. JK Silver Series), 1985 © Jeff Koons Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Alexander Calder, Orange Under Table
Courtesy MCA Chiacgo

Alexander Calder, Orange Under Table, c. 1949 © 2017 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Koons’ bronze Lifeboat appears to float, with Calder’s Seagull and Seal “frolicking above and beside” it, adding to the whimsical nautical feel. The uncanny weightlessness of Koons’ suspended basketballs in Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank share kinship with the orange paddle balanced with unbelievable precision in Calder’s Orange Under Table. Darling says the interplay between works “is super formal in some cases,” such as shared colors, but “also very playfully literal” in his thematic pairing of works. “I wanted to take a risk and be silly so that visitors might also put their guard down and enjoy the works individually and together.”

Heaven and Earth: Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons is on view in the McCormick Tribune Orientation Gallery on the MCA Chicago’s second floor until December 16, 2018.

Visit https://mcachicago.org for more information, or to purchase tickets.

About the Author

Megan D Robinson

Megan D Robinson writes for Art & Object and the Iowa Source.