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    Sale 2168

    Post War and Contemporary Art Morning Session

    14 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 146

    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

    Orbital Path

    Price Realised  


    Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
    Orbital Path
    signed and dated 'Calder 67' (lower right)
    gouache and ink on paper
    27¼ x 20½ in. (69.2 x 52 cm.)
    Painted in 1967.

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    This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A06003.

    Unlike most of his works from the 1960s and '70s, the present work represents a return to the past when Calder was creating his elegant "space" drawings (see fig.): "These marvelously pure compositions graphically represent Calder's constant interest in the solar system and other heavenly bodies. 'The basis of everything for me is the universe,'" Calder once said (J. Lipman, Calder's Universe, 1976, p. 83). The idea goes back to 1922 when he was on a steamship early in the morning traveling through the Panama Canal: "'I saw the beginning of a fiery red sunrise on one side and the moon looking like a silver coin on the other. Of the whole trip this impressed me most of all; it left me with a lasting sensation of the solar system. The underlying sense of form in my work has been the system of the universe.' Cosmos, constellations and outer space all converge for Calder, just as they did for Arp, Tanguy and Miro" (M. Rosenthal, The Surreal Calder, 2006, p. 70).

    As the title of the present work suggests, "Orbital Path" refers to the paths and axes of rotation between the moon, the earth, and the sun. Calder elaborates"The circular forms, particularly interacting, seem to me to have some kind of cosmic or universal feeling." (M. Prather, Alexander Calder, 1998, p. 59). In Orbital Path we see a swirling black vortex twisting and curling around a fiery sun and red planet. Calder's repeated use of the spinning vortex in his jewelry, early wire sculpture and drawings and paintings reflects his endless fascination with motion. Interconnected as they are by the centrifugal swirl that links them, the astral forms in Orbital Path render it a "constellation on paper" by Calder. "I work upward," Calder stated, "linking the parts together" (M. Rosenthal, The Surreal Calder, p. 59).

    Calder developed a passion for gouaches early in his career, appreciating the ease at which he could work with this medium while combining his love for drawing and eye for color. Calder's gouaches, seemingly simple, reveal a mastery of line and a solid balance of composition which along with their strong colors translate into vibrant and pulsating works of art. "Infinitely inventive works that only a masterly painter could produce, the best ones are joyously conceived, firmly structured and brilliantly colored and together add up to one of the most remarkable bodies of work in our time. Inevitably there are a great many below top quality, however Calder's work in this medium must be judged by the splendid examples." (J. Lipman, Calder's Universe, p. 120).


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