For years, Alexander Calder's awesome theatre/performance art/toy/sculpture Circus has been in the lobby of the Whitney Museum, entertaining its way into the psyches of generations of city-dwelling kids. It's made of dozens of little articulated toy figures, which the artist/ringmaster would set in motion for a paying audience or the movie camera. [Did you know that you could book Calder and his Circus for parties "through the Junior League at Saks Fifth Avenue"? Let's see the competitive toddler birthday party circuit top that.]
Now the Whitney has opened a show about Calder in Paris in the 1920's, where the artist first became famous for performing Circus and for creating bent wire portraits--line drawings in fanciful 3-D--of celebrities and his friends, and where a visit to Mondrian's studio set him on the abstractionist mobile/stabile path that defined his career.
From a Big Imagination, a Tiny Circus [nyt, plus a review]
Alexander Calder: The Paris Years 1926-1933, runs through Feb. 15, 2009 [whitney.org, also the image above]
Watch Carlos Vilardebo's 1961 film version of Cirque Calder on YouTube or on UbuWeb [ubu]