This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07301.
Gracefully floating in mid-air, Black: 2-2-6 illustrates Alexander Calder's exceptional contribution to twentieth century art through his iconic mobiles. Black: 2-2-6 was created in 1965 and was acquired immediately by the current owner, whose family it has remained in for almost 50 years. This will be the first time it will have been on the market since that time.
Painted in all black, the work's bold, graphic clarity is set in gentle counterpoint to its delicate, meditative rotations. According to the artist, 'When everything goes right, a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises' (A. Calder, Calder, London, 2004, p. 261). Black: 2-2-6 was created during the period in which the artist became increasingly focused on the most ambitious projects of his career: his monumental stabiles. Hand-wrought and expertly constructed, Calder crafts Black: 2-2-6 on the more intimate scale of his classic mobiles, but imbues it with the grandeur of his larger-than-life structures.
Calder believed color to be 'secondary' to questions of form and structure (A. Calder quoted in H. Mulas and H.H. Arnason, Calder, London, 1971, p. 69). Black: 2-2-6, with its streamlined, inky hues, calls attention to the elegant form: hanging from the ceiling, a cascade of slim polygons rotates and glides below two circular discs. Despite its complex mechanics, the work appears almost intuitively constructed. Having graduated from New Jersey's Stevens Institute of Technology in 1919, Calder's sculptures are indebted to his years studying to be an engineer before devoting himself to artistic endeavors.
Calder spent a significant portion of his life in France, visiting the country for years at a time after first visiting Paris in 1926. By 1965, Calder split his time between his homes in Roxbury, Connecticut and Saché, France. It was in Paris that he first became inspired to introduce movement into sculpture, after his transformative visit to the studio of Piet Mondrian, the Dutch-born painter who transformed abstract painting through his gridded compositions and pure, undiluted colors. Calder recalled of the experience, 'I was very much moved by Mondrian's studio, large, beautiful and irregular in shape as it was, with the walls painted white and divided by black lines and rectangles of bright colors, like his paintings I thought how fine it would be if everything moved' (A. Calder quoted in J. Marter, Alexander Calder, Cambridge, 1991, p. 102). Executed 30 years later, Black: 2-2-6 illustrates the invaluable influence of the encounter, with its graphic simplicity, crisp outlines and flat even tones.
In Black: 2-2-6, Calder's constellation of cut metal shapes creates a floating three-dimensional world in constant flux. Though wrought in metal and wire, Black: 2-2-6 possesses the quiet, meditative beauty and imperfect harmony of nature. Calder even incorporates the invisible forces surrounding the sculpture, as the mobile responds with swirling, Dionysian energy to the slightest breeze. Calder's consideration of both mass and void recalls similar traditions of Chinese painting, in which the unmarked, white space becomes as significant as the calligraphic sweeps of black ink. The negative space of paper, or of atmosphere in Calder's case, is carefully delineated to express the sublime, the infinite or the unknown.