Though Alexander Calder was known for his hanging mobile sculptures experimenting with geometric form, movement, and color, a foundation in his name has given its $50,000 award this year to an artist working in a decidedly different medium: film.
Rosa Barba, a Berlin-based artist who is known for cinematic works that meditate on her medium’s formal properties, has been named the winner of the Calder Prize, which is given out biennially to an artist who is continuing the famed modernist’s legacy. Along with giving her the $50,000 sum, the Calder Foundation will place a work by Barba in a major public collection.
“There is a supernatural, almost spiritual quality to Rosa Barba’s work that connects us to unknown realms,” Alexander S. C. Rower, the president of the New York–based Calder Foundation, told ARTnews. “Her artworks are comprised of seemingly simple imagery, but if you spend time investigating them—feeling them—their dynamic qualities reveal themselves. Rosa’s innovations reward us with insight into a universal nature and maybe more importantly, the possibility of personal revelations. Exactly the same can be said of my grandfather’s work.”
As it happens, there is a more direct connection between Barba and Calder than might be apparent. For a 2017 Whitney Museum show of Calder’s work in New York, Barba produced a work that focused on the light reflecting off one of Calder’s hanging sculptures; she considers that filmic work, titled Enigmatic Whisper, a “portrait” of the Calder piece.
Others of Barba’s films have focused on time itself and the ways artworks are stored over time, and have taken on three-dimensional qualities in the form of installations and sculptures. She has shown work at editions of the Venice Biennale, the Biennale of Sydney, the Liverpool Biennial, and the Performa biennial, among other major showcases.