Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Untitled (Standing Mobile, c. 1965)
Sheet metal, brass, wire, and paint, height 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm), width 5 in. (12.5 cm) including the mobile element, depth 2 3/4 in. (7.0 cm).
Condition: Paint losses.
Provenance: Purchased at a charity auction in Roxbury, Connecticut, approximately sixty years ago by Martin and Anne Wangh, through to the current owner by descent.
N.B. This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, as application number A28062.
By the 1960s, Alexander Calder had established a successful, international career as an artist. During that decade, he received numerous awards, exhibited his sculptures and paintings in gallery shows in New York and Paris and in museum retrospectives at the Tate Gallery in London, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris. At the same time, Calder maintained a very high rate of production, working on large-scale sculpture commissions as well as small works like this untitled standing mobile.
Though born into a family of artists, Calder initially rejected an artistic career, choosing instead to study mechanical engineering. Ultimately, he conceded to his artistic roots and enrolled in the Art Students League in New York in 1923 and soon afterwards began making regular visits to Paris where he worked on and exhibited small, figurative wire sculptures. In Paris, Calder met fellow artists Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, and Piet Mondrian, all of whom influenced Calder's progression to abstract forms in his works. Calder created his first kinetic sculptures in 1931, and Marcel Duchamp began referring to the works as "mobiles." At first, Calder's mobiles were motorized, but he quickly realized that he could propel his works through ambient air currents.
Calder worked persistently throughout his career on variations of his abstract mobiles (suspended moving sculptures), standing mobiles (anchored moving sculptures), and stabiles (stationary constructions). The scale of his sculptures varies widely, from colossal outdoor stabiles to diminutive standing mobiles. Though he often made small maquettes as part of the design process for large sculptures, he meant the majority of his small sculptures to be artworks in their own rights. For this untitled standing mobile, Calder employed his hallmark form--colorful, abstract shapes suspended on carefully balanced systems of wire hangers. Calder's interests in physics, astronomy, and kinetics, coupled with his involvement in the Abstraction-Création group of artists in Paris, informed the primary colors and geometric and organic shapes he used in his carefully engineered constructions. The sturdy, tripod base of this tiny standing mobile gives way to a thin, delicate wire that sits on the tip of the base via a tiny dimple on the underside of the wire. Calder weighted the circular shapes on either end of the wire to enable it to balance perfectly. Engineering skill, artistic genius, elegance, and playfulness all characterize Calder's ouvre. Describing his motives, Calder told an interviewer, "I want to make things that are fun to look at, that have no propaganda value whatsoever." 1
1. "Calder" in Selden Rodman, Conversations with Artists, (New York: 1957), pp. 136-142 in Martha Prather, Alexander S.C. Rower, and Arnauld Pierre, Alexander Calder: 1898-1976, National Gallery of Art, Washington (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1998), exh. cat.
Red metal base is 4 x 2 3/4 x 2 in.
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