This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A02793.
Modernist and abstract, with its graceful biomorphic forms that turn and waft gently in space, this intimately-scaled tabletop work is an exquisite example of a unique sculptural genre that was invented by Alexander Calder, one of the most innovative of all 20th century sculptors.
Displaying Calder’s interest in both form and color, this polychrome work cleverly sets off the dark tonality of its black-painted stabile support platform against the sculptures’ lighter-hued, tonally-contrasting floating shapes. A striking splash of brilliant red floats near the lower portion of the mobile, offering a vivid color counterpoint to the bipolar, black/white hues of the other elements of the sculpture. Calder used the term “disparity” to describe how he employed carefully chosen tonal combinations to create a powerfully asymmetrical yet perfectly balanced tension in his sculptures. The intentionally pared-down range of hues in the present work are subtle, never overwhelming the sculpture’s essential shapes and lines, and so allowing the viewer to savor the artwork’s silhouette and enjoy the ebb and flow of the mobile’s spontaneous motion.
Five free-form abstract shapes—dynamically contrasted in white and red—hover before the viewer, floating, drifting and twirling on air currents, suspended by a delicate, hand-worked tracery of wire scaffolding. The sculpture’s base, powerfully accented in black, provides the foundational footprint that serves as ballast for the counterpoised lighter elements of the sculpture, anchoring the piece to the ground. The base also carries the inscription 'LJC 60,' a rare dedication by the artist to his wife, Louisa. The pair met in June 1929 while traveling on a boat from Paris to New York, married in 1931 and she became his constant companion until the artist's death in 1976.
An outward-projecting cantilevered arm serves as architectural support for the buoyant elements suspended above as they pivot in response to touch or to currents of air. The base and supporting armature define a powerful geometric right angle, in striking opposition to the free-form biomorphic shapes making up the sculpture’s floating elements.
The sculpture reaches in two directions, at once simultaneously stretching toward the earth and outward into air. The elements are poised in lively equilibrium relative to each other, their forms merging straight-edged geometry with flowing, streamlined curves evocative of organic shapes. The lines, shapes and contours of the sculpture appear almost as if they were freehand drawings, but drawings made material and three dimensional, as if drawn in space.
The total effect of the work is to balance the stable, grounded and heavier support elements, suggestive of traditional sculpture’s weight and mass, with the ethereal, light-as-air facets, achieving a wonderful equilibrium of opposites. In explaining the difference between the two forms, Calder said, “the mobile has actual movement in itself, while the stabile is back at the old painting idea of implied movement. You have to walk around a stabile or through it—a mobile dances in front of you.” (Calder quoted in K. Kuh, The Artist's Voice: Talks with Seventeen Modern Artists, New York, 1999, p. 42)
Projecting the entire fascination and allure of Calder’s singular style, this tabletop work possesses all the energy and grace of the artist’s larger sculptures. A pedestal-sculptural stabile base and a floating mobile unbounded by gravity, extending dynamically into air constitute the work, embodying both of Calder’s signature sculptural innovations—the solidity, stability, and groundedness of his stabiles with the dynamic, kinetic nature of his mobiles. Reflecting Calder’s radical genius, the work is still fresh and vital today, decades after it was created.
Calder created standing mobiles in many different sizes, from as small as a few feet wide, to monumental ones designed to be displayed out-of-doors in parks or urban areas. By combining the two sculptural forms, he gave himself more creative options than he would have had if he created just stabiles or mobiles as separate art works.
His kinetic and ethereal creations became an entirely new kind of sculptural concept that encompassed both form and movement. Fashioned from basic industrial materials such as sheet metal, brass, or wire, shaped and worked by hand, they were a bold departure from the materials and methods of traditional sculpture practice.
Calder was first and foremost a sculptor, but he was a sculptor who made a unique contribution, innovating an entirely new kind of sculptural concept whose overriding statement was that of motion. He paved the way for younger, mid-20th Century artists working in forms beyond sculpture in the traditional sense (John Chamberlain, Jean Tinguely, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Di Suvero, Claes Oldenburg, and Jasper Johns, to name just a few) to pursue new methods and materials far beyond traditional boundaries.
He synthesized ideas originating with Cubists, Constructivists, Surrealists, and other revolutionary art movements, but without choosing sides among the various avant-garde styles, instead translating the many experimental and innovative approaches into his own personal idiom.