Untitled, 1972 signed with the artist's monogram and dated 'CA 72' (on the base) painted sheet metal and wire 15 1/2 x 20 1/2 x 10in. (39.37 x 52.07 x 25.4cm)
PROVENANCE: A gift from the artist to the previous owner and thence by descent.
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A14789.
Inserting the ideas of motion, change, and chance into an aesthetic canon, Alexander Calder's creation of the "mobile" expanded upon the schema of abstract art. Born to artist parents, from a young age Calder enjoyed handling materials and creating sculpture. After receiving an engineering degree, assuming several professional positions, and working as an illustrator in New York City, Calder's artistic edge landed him in Paris in 1926 where he found an aesthetic home within the Parisian avant-garde.
Sparked by a visit to the studio of Piet Mondrian in October 1930, Calder became enthralled with abstraction. Naturally positioned towards sculpture though he did draw and paint, Calder became inspired to create his first kinetic objects dubbed "mobiles" by friend Marcel Duchamp. The word, referring both to "motion" and "motive", appropriately captured the unique form. At first Calder's works involved cranks and motors though quickly he abandoned mechanization in favor of a more graceful approach. Utilizing atmospheric context, Calder assembled his sculptures with the autonomy to move as they please. Calder's mobiles sway, undulate, reverse, and stabilize with the sheer motivation of the air's currents. His particular skill in the engineering of balance imbues the contraptions with an artistic backbone of a completely mysterious fate. The natural quality of both his forms and their chance-movement attest to Calder's sensitive understanding of abstraction.
Jean Paul-Sartre, quite taken with Calder's forms, wrote the essay for his 1946 exhibition at the Galerie Louis Carré, Paris. He described the sculptures as, "something midway between matter and life," celebrating "the beauty of its pure and changing forms, at once so free and so disciplined." Paralleled in the works of other abstract expressionists, Calder's mobiles create a graceful tension winding and hesitating in new directions, suggesting natural forms yet grounded markedly in tangible industrialized material and bold color.
Untitled, 1972 exudes these unique qualities of his work. This piece, base firmly grounded, balances a scale of opposing forms as they morph in and out of unification and separation. Skeletal in its composition, Calder expertly pairs the linear, curvilinear, and organic to resemble an otherworldly naturalism. Finding harmonious tension in negative space and weighty material, this mobile serves as a fascinating example of genuine shape coupled with instantaneous movement. Sartre calls each of its evolutions, "the inspiration of a moment."
An undeniable purity marks the work of Alexander Calder. More than the static artwork of his contemporaries, Calder's mobiles insert a lyrical quality into the abstraction of the form. As Martha Graham's modernly expressive choreography alludes to a vast purity and fluidity of the body, so too does the sculpture of Alexander Calder in its aesthetically and physically liberated structure.