Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Property from the Collection of Joseph W. Blount
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

The Clove

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
The Clove
signed with initials and dated 'CA 70' (on the upper element)
stabile--painted sheet metal
105 1/8 x 85 x 102¾ in. (268 x 215.9 x 260.9 cm.)
Executed in 1970.
M. Knoedler and Co., Inc., New York
Galerie Maeght, Paris, 1981
Blount, Inc., Montgomery
Joseph W. Blount Revocable Trust, Montgomery
Acquired from the above by the present owner
J. Lipman and R. Wolfe, Calder's Universe, exh. cat., New York, 1976, p. 306 (illustrated).
Montgomery, Blount Cultural Park, Outdoor Sculpture, 1983-2001.

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Robert Manley
Robert Manley

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A00337.

Calder produced majestic yet human-scale stabiles towards his career's culmination, of which The Clove, with its gracious organic curves, is among the finest examples. He had triumphed with the critics and the public with his large monumental works, which graced public spaces around the world. After that, Calder returned to producing works on a more human scale. Calder executed The Clove in his signature fiery orange-red color, an elegant skyward frond complementing the softly curving profile. It clearly evokes the flora and fauna that increasingly inspired his work at this time. We can see in this sculpture the confidence and freedom that Calder felt during this fertile period. This work's lines gently undulate and its forms arch, testifying to Calder's skills both an engineer and an artist.

The Clove stands elegantly on four outstretched limbs, in minimal contact with the ground. Calder mastered this particular technique to convey gracefulness and keep a delicate balance. By maintaining the slightest touch with the earth, Calder cleverly creates a work that comes alive on a large scale. The Clove superbly illustrates Calder's mastery of engineering and highlights his proficiency at manifesting his chosen gestalt. Initially trained as an engineer, Calder turned his attention to art soon after gaining his degree in Mechanical Engineering. He set out to redefine sculpture's nature by adding fluidity and color.

However, he was not one to hide the intricacies of his fabrication methods within the work's body. He felt the overall sense of industrial manufacture was crucial to his oeuvre. "If a plate seems flimsy," Calder commented, "I put a rib on it, and if the relationship between the two plates is not rigid, I put a gusset between them ... How to construct them changes with each piece; you invent the bracing as you go, depending on the form of each object" (A. Calder, quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, Washington, 1998, p. 281). Thus, we can see the fabrication, engineering and artistry that went into each work. This was crucial to Calder's rationale, the regimented lines of bolts and braces as essential to his visual aesthetic as the elegant and graceful curves.

The Clove's striking, flame orange-red color is truly arresting. Color formed a principal part of Calder's aesthetic process and he worked hard to match precisely the pigments' intensity with each object's specific form and intended surroundings. Calder particularly favored red, incorporating it into many of his most successful works. He especially appreciated red's power and intensity, and responded to the impact it had when combined with his strong sculptural outlines.
Alexander Calder's outdoor works culminate his lifelong dedication to redefining sculpture's physical and aesthetic nature. Calder found new inspiration during his last twenty years in larger scale works that allowed him, not only to introduce his sculptural ideas to a larger public, but also to work on a different set of processes and challenges. "There has been an agrandissement in my work," Calder said in 1960. "It's true that I've more or less retired from the smaller mobiles. I regard them as just fiddling. The engineering on the big objects is important" (A. Calder, quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., 1998, p. 279).
Calder had moved to a new, larger house on his property in the French town of Saché by 1970, the year he executed The Clove. He also had a new enlarged studio built a few years before. All this resulted in a renewed burst of creativity. After a series of critically acclaimed retrospectives at the Tate in London (1962), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1964) and the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris (1965) Calder was as busy as ever. His studio bustled with activity seven days a week, as he sat at his workbench cutting and constructing. One visitor recalled from a visit during this period, "Just the sight of his workbench, a multipurpose operating table, battle field and junk pile, helps one realize that he has set up the conditions for a daily dialogue with his materials. Surrounded by past works Calder stages the constant interrogation of himself, his materials, and art, about what he can use to realize new imagery and signs" (A. E. Elsen, quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, Washington, 1998, p. 280).

The Clove has been displayed publicly as part of long-term installation at the Blount Cultural Park, part of Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama. Calder excelled at matching sculpture with its environment, whether designing for a private sculpture garden or an open urban space. With foundations mirroring nature's beauty, the sculpture stunningly compliments its natural surroundings. The Clove encapsulates all that is best about Calder's work: he used color vividly and exploited scale skillfully, creating graceful forms that give the work supreme majesty.

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