Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Through July 27

Alexander Calder’s reputation is undergoing “a rehabilitation of sorts,” said Richard Chang in the Orange County, Calif., Register. For decades, art-world elites considered the American sculptor’s whimsical assemblages and mobiles to be as lightweight in cultural import as they are in physical appearance, but the 49 pieces in this beautiful show offer new evidence that his instantly recognizable work has more than decorative value. Calder (1898–1976) was “deeply involved in important abstract movements from the 1930s to the ’70s,” and he never stopped evolving. Throughout his career, Calder “worked diligently at creating the initial illusion of chaos, countered with the mathematical beauty of order and symmetry.”

He had profound ambition, said Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times. Looked at the right way, Calder’s mobiles seem to make visible Einstein’s ideas about the relationship of space and time. Indeed, though Calder’s leap into pure abstraction was inspired by a 1930 visit to the Paris studio of painter Piet Mondrian, the motif that turns up “again and again” here is “not a Mondrian-style grid but curved space.” Perhaps the most beautiful mobile is 1948’s Snow Flurry, “a gentle commotion of 30 white disks suspended on 26 delicately curved wires,” all tracing soft arcs in the air—like a drawing sketching the curvature of space through time. No wonder Einstein himself loved Calder’s work.

Architect Frank Gehry oversaw the show’s installation, and his contribution “succeeds beautifully at times,” said Anna Kats in ArtInfo.com. In his attempt to slow the viewer down, Gehry has erected so many walls that navigating around them occasionally becomes a distraction. Often, though, his curved dividers and subtle lighting choices offer a refreshing change from the “white-box” norm. As it turns out, “thoughtful architecture” actually improves the art-viewing experience.