Audio: Alexander Calder, Five Blossoms
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
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Property of a Distinguished American Collection
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Five Blossoms

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Five Blossoms
signed with initials 'CA' (on the pierced element)
hanging mobile--painted sheet metal and wire
28 x 37 x 15 in. (71.1 x 93.9 x 38.1 cm.)
Executed in 1966.
Perls Galleries, New York
James Goodman Gallery, New York
B. C. Holland, Inc., Chicago, 1967
Tom and Mary Jane McClain, Syracuse
Clement Stone, Chicago
Richard Gary Gallery, Chicago
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1984

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A05106.

Distinguished by its five vertical sprays of vibrant color, Alexander Calder's enchanting Five Blossoms magnificently embodies the artist's unique sculptural practice. Suspended in mid-air, like a colorful bouquet of flowers, the bright colors and gentle movement conjures up memories of a warm day, with scent of fresh flowers wafting on a summer breeze. With a chromatic intensity that is striking even within Calder's vivacious oeuvre, the artist harnesses the full power of the spectrum of color and movement to produce an enchanting work which captivates the senses.

Executed in 1966, Five Blossoms showcases the qualities that resulted in Calder's sculptural creations becoming unmatched within the genre. The roots of his vision of what sculpture could become can be traced back to a visit he made to Piet Mondrian's Parisian studio in the fall of 1930. Upon seeing the Dutch artist's stark abstractions, Calder embarked on an exploration of the concept himself, but applying to it the sculptural form instead of a painted one. Calder sought to redefine the nature of art (and of sculpture in particular) by taking it off the pedestal and breathing movement into its static form. The resulting mobiles were his ground-breaking response to these ideas of movement and color, and Five Blossoms remains a superlative example of Calder's unfettered imagination and his unmatched technical skill. His unique ability was to produce works of exquisitely balanced composition which retain their harmony when moved by the merest breath of wind. Each individual element is anchored by a series of exceptional mechanisms that allow them move independently of each other yet retaining a unity that ensures that none of the elements dominate or bump into each other.

In addition to its elegantly balanced forms, Five Blossoms is also distinguished by the chromatic range and intensity of the colors that Calder selected. Color was an important expressive device for the artist and one of the most important factors in his compositions. For Calder, vibrant pigment was not necessarily always a representational force, but rather an emotional one in much the same way as Henri Matisse and André Derain, the historical pioneers in non-traditional use of color. In Five Blossoms Calder playfully exploits the optical effect of the changing intensity of color as he paints the different sides of each element with a contrasting color. So, in all but one of the vertical elements, red becomes blue and blue becomes yellow as the fronds sweep round exposing the different sides of each element. The horizontal elements also metamorphose from an unalloyed white when viewed from above, switching to a myriad of multi-colored jewels when viewed from below.

The title of this work, Five Blossoms, evokes Jean-Paul Satre's famous observations on first experiencing Calder's work in the 1940s. "A 'mobile,' one might say, is a little private celebration, an object defined by its movement and having no other existence," Sartre declared, "It is a flower that fades when it ceases to move, a 'pure play of movement' in the sense that we speak of a pure play of light.They are, that is all; they are absolutes. There is more of the unpredictable about them than in any other human creation. No human brain, not even their creator's, could possibly foresee all the complex combinations of which they are capable. A general destiny of movement is sketched for them, and then they are left to work it out for themselves. What they may do at a given moment will be determined by the time of day, the sun, the temperature or the wind. The object is thus always half way between the servility of a statue and the independence of natural events; each of its evolutions is the inspiration of a moment" (J.P. Sartre, The Mobiles of Calder, Alexander Calder, New York, 1947). This sentiment was echoed years later by the artist himself who summed up the essence of his work. "When everything goes right," he once said "a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life" (A. Calder, Calder, London, 2004, p. 261).

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