Classical Sculpture, Meet “Calder”

By: Catie S. Anderson, occasional "art critic" on March 17th, 2021

The latest offerings from the Woodson Art Museum’s Wee Build Workshop feature academic architecture, Roman friezes, and an homage to the master of the mobile, Alexander Calder.

Construction on the shipping-crate-turned-grand-gallery began months ago, but last week the finishing touches were added to the Mini Makes atrium dedicated to classical sculpture. The gallery includes a marble floor, wrap-around mezzanine, and sleek main-level curved wall, making this the Workshop’s most ambitious undertaking thus far.

A generous domed skylight yields a bright atrium adorned with cascading shadows that reach down the walls like a waterfall, creating a serene and inviting space. The grid-like shadows are a fitting backdrop for the geometric mobile and help to marry the otherwise “odd couple” of classical sculpture and Calder.

The Wee Builders’ fondness for unexpected pairings can be seen in the unorthodox mix of materials on display – faux-marble, wood columns sit atop Carrara tiles while stone sculptures are presented alongside bas-relief assemblages painted to resemble plaster. Woodson Wanderings readers may be familiar with the late-nineteenth-to-early-twentieth-century practice of mass-producing plaster casts of revered classical sculptures to serve as accessible alternatives to the real thing for eager, non-European audiences. Some facsimiles were billed as genuine articles, causing some to look down upon the practice, but this art critic has a soft spot for these reproductions, which serve as excellent teaching tools to this day. Many American art museum and university collections are home to dozens of plaster understudies for Italian Renaissance masterpieces and I found it utterly charming that the Mini Makers thought to mimic the process here.

In the exclusive video below, you’ll go behind-the-scenes on the build and see the perfectly kitsch materials used to fake plaster friezes. Whether the art and materials are high or low, when the stakes are this small, it’s all in good taste.

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