Paul Klee famously described his artistic method as “taking a line for a walk.” Sculptor Alexander Calder charmingly walked his line into the third dimension. The exhibit (now at the Whitney Museum) and its catalog, Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933 (Whitney/Centre Pompidou/Yale Univ., $60)—written and edited by co-curators Joan Simon and Brigitte Leal—demonstrates how Calder made crucial stylistic breakthroughs during his sojourn overseas. A genius with wire and pliers, he created portraits of friends and celebrities. He showed a special affinity for animals, and his Circus—movable beasts and performers made of wire, cloth, and wood—was the hit of Paris. Later, Calder created his first delicate, abstract mobiles and stabiles there. This is an inspiring book, bursting with creative joy.
Can’t make it to Paris anytime soon? No worries, simply open the pages of Louvre: 400 Masterpieces (Abrams, $40) and take a stroll through the halls of the Louvre without being pressed for time or plagued with aching feet. Daniel Soulié, a Louvre historian, has designed the book to approximate an actual trip to the museum, with each chapter representing one of the nine Louvre departments. So take your time and enjoy the rich reproductions. The works depicted in this book were randomly selected, so you may be surprised at what you see and what you don’t see (e.g., no Mona Lisa).
I coveted Georgia O’keeffe And Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities (Little, Brown, $40) from the first moment I saw it. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful book. Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams have never been paired together in a book, but it’s an affiliation that works on many levels. Both were inspired by the dramatic natural surroundings of the American West. Their work, while different in style, shares a similar approach to light, texture, and composition. The juxtaposition of O’Keeffe’s simple lines and soft colors with Adams’s black-and-white photographs deepens a viewer’s appreciation of each. The accompanying essays illuminate the artists’ lives, inspiration, and lifelong friendship. (Don’t miss the exhibit of these artists’ work at the American Art Museum, on display through January 4.)