Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act

Culled mostly from the collection of local SAM benefactors John and Mary Shirley, this is a show you’d rather see outdoors–perhaps with Calder’s Eagle at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Black circles on the floor indicate the forbidden zone where, if you ventured inside, one of Calder’s giant mobiles might bonk you on the head. SAM would eject you for defiling great art with your humble blood, but at least such an accident would send the things into motion. The A/C isn’t strong enough to move the dangly, geometric forms. During a recent walk-through, nor was lung power enough. The Shirleys have amassed an impressive collection, but one that’s very much stuck in Calder’s fertile years–the ’30s and ’40s. Everything that followed in the next three decades repeats his signature style, which could be described as tangled wire coat hangers and guitar picks. More interesting are the black-and-white photos (some by Gordon Parks) showing Calder at work in a NYC storefront with pliers and wire, just another artist scrounging for cheap materials during the Great Depression. BRIAN MILLER

Thursdays, Fridays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Starts: Oct. 15. Continues through April 11, 2009