Conserving Calder
By Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs

11 OCTOBER 00 | "The Hawk for Peace," Alexander Calder's majestic stabile of painted steel outside the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, is getting a major makeover.

During the conservation treatment that started this week, the 11.5-foot-wide and 23-foot-long sculpture that stretches 13 feet high will be shrouded in scaffolding and a protective, shrink-wrap vertical covering. Materials will blanket the lawn to protect it as well.

The eight- to 10-day project managed by Capital Projects entails applying a chemical stripping agent by hand trowel to gently remove rust and scale, along with an undercoat used when the artwork was created in 1968. The cutting-edge product, neither caustic nor acidic, essentially deoxidizes the paint and is an alternative to harsh treatments such as sandblasting.

Once the bare metal has been exposed, a new primer and coat of matte black paint will be applied to protect the surface and restore the work to its original glory. Heading that part of the project will be Jeffco Painting of Mare Island, a firm that specializes in industrial painting and that currently is working on the Bay and Benicia bridges.

Berkeley will take extra precautions during the makeover, primarily to assure containment and proper disposal of the lead in the old paint. The campus will use certified personnel with training in the handling and disposal of toxic materials, erect a fence around the sculpture to prevent unauthorized access, and monitor the air at several sites around the sculpture during the paint removal.

Born in 1898, Calder became best known for inventing both the mobile and the stabile, a non-moving sculpture, as well as for creating wire sculptures. As he got older, his sculptures increased in size. Calder died in 1976.

"The Hawk for Peace" was commissioned by the Berkeley Art Museum and donated by the artist in memory of his brother-in-law, Kenneth Aurand Hayes, a member of the Class of 1916.

It first was installed on the lawn facing South Hall, near the Campanile, in 1969 and then moved to the Bancroft Avenue entrance to the museum when it opened in 1970. Originally titled "Boeing," the piece was renamed "The Hawk," and, finally, "The Hawk for Peace."

Funds for the project were raised through an appeal to museum members.

At the same time, museum authorities sought out the right replacement paint.

"Painters and anybody who knows paint has great admiration for that (Calder's paint), because it was so tenacious and durable," said Barney Bailey, the museum's exhibitions designer, noting how well the paint sealed and protected the steel from corrosion and rust. "The paint of that period is not rivaled by anything that is produced today."

The plus side of today's paints is that they have no lead, while the paint Calder used for "The Hawk for Peace" contained 2 percent lead, according to Gary Bayne, a Berkeley environmental health and safety specialist.

Though 2 percent isn't much, since 1978, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have prohibited the manufacture of paint with more than 0.006 percent lead. Most bridges and ships, painted before current regulations became law, feature paint with as much as 60 percent lead.

"It was important that the paint compare aesthetically to retain the artist's intent," said Bailey.


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