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Details
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Black Lemon
signed with initals and dated 'CA 58' (on the base)
standing mobile--painted sheet metal and wire
18 x 53 x 19 in. (45.7 x 134.6 x 48.3 cm.)
Executed in 1958.
Provenance
Perls Gallery, New York
William Pall Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A04769.

"I like a hard shape, something like a fresh fruit, rather than an old, rotten shape" (A. Calder quoted in J. Lipman, Calder's Universe, New York, 1976, p. 265).

Calder's standing mobiles are a marriage of his two most characteristic sculptural forms: the mobile and the stabile. The hybrid construction offers a static, stabile base which supports an attachment of moving elements. These standing mobiles allowed Calder to develop new and various combinations of rising and falling forms, which often reminded him of natural things like flowers, fruit or animals.

In the late 1940s, Calder created a series of variations of the theme of the standing, three-legged mobile that rises through pierced discs to explode outward, blossoming playfully. This format resulted in some of Calder's most majestic and structurally rigorous works. Black Lemon is supported by a base constructed of two triangular forms painted red and blue and a simple, arched rod painted yellow. The base, measuring only 18 inches high, supports a long, sinuous and outstretched mobile composed of pierced "lemons" and delicate round elements with a total span of 53 inches. The bold colors of the base offset the black and white mobile that floats above. The combination of the sturdy base and long reach of the mobile's span calls to mind an elephant, one of Calder's recurring creatures from the early Circus days. Indeed in 1955 Calder visited India, and describes a daytrip of viewing elephants in the wild in his autobiography.

Calder's work from the 1950s displays an invigorating confidence--comfortable with his materials and forms, he continues to explore new compositions with sublimely intricate engineering and persistent with. The 1950s were a busy time for the artist; in 1953 he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale where he won the grand prize for sculpture. This recognition launched his enormous Post-War international career. Black Lemon is a sculpture executed during Calder's prime; at once comfortable and still challenged by the mobiles that he invented, he uses color, form and balance to create a piece whose whimsical name belies its masterful construction.

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