"Cheval" of a Different Color
Alexander Calder’s plaster maquette for “Cheval I”, from 1930 and now in a show at L&M Arts in New York, where it sits beside the bronze that was cast from it. The exhibition had many pairings like this, and they all reminded me of how much I prefer plasters to bronzes, especially in modern art. The plasters are delicate and ephemeral and feel as though they record the artist’s act of working. (Apparently, Calder modeled directly in plaster rather than starting out in clay or wax.) The bronzes don’t only lose some of the detail of the plasters; they inevitably invoke the elaborate, expensive, time-hallowed process of casting, by which the original maquettes come to be inserted into Old Master art history and its market. The bronzes are really pictures of the plasters, and need to be read as representational acts, with all the translation that involves.
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