Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
signed with monogram and dated 'CA 68' (on one of the legs)
stabile--painted steel
16 x 20½ x 11 ft. (4.9 x 6.3 x 3.3 m.)
Executed in 1968.
Acquired from the artist, 1968

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A10147.

In the last fifteen years of his life, Calder made a number of large "stabiles," a term that was coined to describe his metal constructions that rest on the ground. The creation of these larger scaled sculptures was both a response to the increasing number of his public commissions as well as his desire and enjoyment of realizing monumental works. Throughout the late 1950s and 60s, as the Western world entered a new phase of prosperity and immense corporate headquarters and public buildings were constructed, commissions of Calder's outdoor public works became signature elements in the landscape. These works were highly desired by both architects and the public because they looked ravishing in front of International Style buildings. Abstract forms with references to the natural world, colorful and soaring gracefully alongside the rigorous architectural grids, Calder's stabiles have become beloved popular landmarks in the locales they inhabit. Drawing on techniques developed during his brief early career as an engineer, Calder bolted large plates of metal together in highly inventive and idiosyncratic ways to create his characteristic abstract forms. Often suggestive of flora, fauna, animals, dinosaurs or other biomorphic forms, his large-scale stabiles are bold and playful, and though they have no moving elements, give a sense of motion in their graceful forms.

Untitled was produced at a time when Calder's large-scale works were at the height of their critical acclaim, and by 1968 Calder had well worked out his practice and methodology of creating these commissions. In 1966, Calder went to Mexico to install El Sol Rojo, an eighty-foot-high pyramidal form that supports a huge sun-like disk, which was commissioned for the new Aztec Stadium that housed the 1968 Olympic Games. In the same way that El Sol Rojo alludes to Mexico's brilliant sun and ancient pyramids, Untitled, another Latin American commission, evokes the undulating landscape of the region. Sinuous and lithe, yet massive and arresting, this work is a perfect marriage of his formal and material acumen with the bravura and ambition of a mammoth scale.

Whether designing for a private sculpture garden or an open urban space, Calder excelled in the challenges of matching sculpture with its environment. In addition, his engineering background and his artistic vision were the perfect mix needed to realize such monumental works of art. As Calder's friend Robert Osborn wrote: "Calder has always been an engineer. He has clothed the forces of his engineering with his joyful imagination and his lithe sense of beauty. But the well-spring of his art remains the thrusts, the tensions, the stress-loads, the balances, the force of gravity, which the engineer proceeds to adjust and join." (J. Lipman, Calder's Universe, New York, 1976, pp. 306-307).

With its fluid grace and dynamic interaction of planes, Untitled exemplifies all of the strongest tendencies of Calder's art. Although quite massive in scale, its steel plates are delicately balanced on gently arching legs, making the sculpture appear to float up to the sky rather than press downwards on the earth. The legs appear to rise from their contact points in a way that leaves an open plaza area below, encouraging pedestrian movement.

Alexander Calder in the Segre Foundry, 1964 c 2003 Estate of Alexander Calder/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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