Art: Calder's Universe

"The underlying sense of form in my work has been the system of the Universe, or part thereof." On reading this pompous remark by Alexander Calder, the most internationally celebrated of all living American sculptors, one's hopes rise. Make way for the cosmic perspective! In fact, as the Whitney Museum's new retrospective of the work of this venerable figure testifies, his achievement is more modest and realistic. In the 200-odd works that make up "Calder's Universe," as the show is called, there is little of the real universe, but a pervasive flavor of its metaphors: orreries, planetary clockwork, automata. The Copernican...

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