Alexander Calder Sculpture: L'Homme

Montreal Stabile L'Homme by Alexander Calder

Calder sculpture, as seen in Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau.
••• Alexander Calder's sculpture "L'Homme," as seen in Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau. Photo by Flickr user Michel Craig (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Alexander Calder sculpture L'Homme -that's French for "Man"- is a Montreal landmark in Parc Jean-Drapeau, a park consisting of two man-made islands originally designed as hosting grounds for Expo 67, Montreal's World Fair.

In modern times, Calder's sculpture is most recognizable as the epicentre of Piknic Electronik, a popular weekly Sunday clubbing-in-the-park event.

 

Who Is Alexander Calder?

Considered one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, Alexander Calder first trained and worked as an engineer but fell into his own when he embraced art in 1923, within four years of graduating in mechanical engineering.

Possibly inspired by his past open-air wire art or kinetic sculptures, as exemplified by Circus, Calder is best known for inventing what lights up legions of babies every day, the mobile. In addition to his mobiles, like Lobster Trap and Fish Tail commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Calder began making sculptures on a grander scale in the late 1930s. Calling them "stabiles," a play on the words stable and mobile, examples of classic Alexander Calder sculptures include Têtes et Queue in Berlin and Shiva in Kansas City.

 

Calder and L'Homme

By the mid '60s, Calder was commissioned by the International Nickel Company of Canada to build one of his large trademark metallic sculptures in time for Montreal's World Fair. He accepted, and L'Homme was revealed on May 17, 1967, reportedly the day of Montreal's 325th birthday, on schedule for Expo 67. A time capsule with documents related to the ceremony was placed beneath the stabile with an invitation for Montreal's future mayor to open it, but only in 2067.

 

L'Homme Today

In 1992, the imposing stabile was moved from its original position to the belvedere lookout on Parc Jean-Drapeau's Île Ste. Hélène. By Spring 2003, L'Homme, much like the Monument George-Étienne Cartier at the Tam Tams, became the central location of Montreal's favorite outdoor rave, Piknic Electronik, a popular spring and summer Sunday event with families as well as electronic music fans.

Its size, 21.3 metres high (under 70') and 22 metres wide (over 72') makes it large enough to cover most of the concrete dance floor.

 

Getting There

Reaching L'Homme bu public transit is the easiest way to get there. Just get off at Jean-Drapeau Metro. Upon exiting the subway station, walk almost straight ahead (the path is a few paces to your left), following the dirt path, and passing the bathroom facilities on your left side. You'll know you're on the right track if you're walking in the opposite direction of a giant dome, the conspicuous Biosphere. Continue following the dirt path for a couple of minutes and the giant sculpture will appear in your line of sight in no time.

 

Sources: Calder Foundation, About.com Guide to Art History, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Piknic Electronik, Ville de Montréal