by Nathalie Azoulai
Born to a painter mother and a sculptor father, American artist Alexander Calder trained first as an engineer, a versatile legacy you can tell in his art. Everything he made involves such exacting judgments of colour, form and mass, such skill with pliers and anvils. But it all begins with pure line; Calder was a draughtsman in space. In photographs, the artist is barely able to suppress his laughter. Humour seems as much his medium as motion itself. Take a large red disc balanced by a tiny black ball, a single hoop the pivot between them: sure it is a work of strict abstraction, utterly pure and dialectical, but it also has the character of a self-important warden ponderously directing the traffic. Take his famous Circus above all and try to prevent your bursting laughters to blow away the tiny and delicate balances that might epitomize somehow our precarious existences. Proper metaphysical humour. To be admired at the London Tate Modern until April, 3.