Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
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These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more The Arthur and Anita Kahn Collection: A New York Story
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Crag with Yellow Boomerang and Red Eggplant

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Crag with Yellow Boomerang and Red Eggplant
incised with the artist's monogram and dated 'C.A.74' (on the upper red element)
standing mobile: painted sheet metal and wire
78 x 94 x 41in. (198.1 x 238.7 x 104.1cm.)
Executed in 1974
Perls Galleries, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1974.
New York, Perls Galleries, Crags and Critters of 1974, 1974, p. 2, no. 3 (illustrated in colour, p. 3; installation view illustrated in colour, p. 1).
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Post lot text
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A02534.

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Annemijn van Grimbergen
Annemijn van Grimbergen

Lot Essay

‘The simplest forms in the universe are the sphere and the circle. I represent them by discs and then I vary them. My whole theory about art is the disparity that exists between form, masses and movement’ – A. Calder

‘Mobiles at the top
Stabiles at the bottom
Such is the Eiffel Tower
Calder is like the Tower
Iron bird catcher
Watchmaker attuned by the wind
Tamer of black beasts
Hilarious engineer
Restless architect
Sculptor of time
This is Calder’
J. Prévert

With its hypnotic chorus of red, yellow and blue forms orbiting a striking black obelisk, Alexander Calder’s Crag with Yellow Boomerang and Red Eggplant combines the ethereal kinetics of the artist’s mobiles with the dramatic grandeur of his ‘stabiles’. Standing nearly two metres in height, with a two-and-a-half metre span, it is the largest of only seven ‘crag’ sculptures created for the 1974 exhibition Crags and Critters held at Perls Galleries in New York, where it was acquired by the Kahns. Each of the fifteen pieces exhibited was either a grimacing alien ‘critter’ or – as in the present work – a mountain-like peak adorned with elegant floating discs. Alongside the abstract floating spheres that had, by this time, become synonymous with Calder’s oeuvre, the present work is distinguished by the addition of two explicitly figurative elements: a red eggplant and a yellow boomerang. Indicative of his debt to Surrealism, the work bears witness to the dynamic ingenuity that had underpinned Calder’s oeuvre since his earliest circus figures, and remained unextinguished at the age of seventy-six. Installed at Perls Galleries, the ‘crags’ formed an imposing Martian landscape: tall, dark monoliths from whose black depths sprung strange, exotic fruits and flowers. Many of Calder’s works from the 1970s extended his lexicon of otherworldly fantasy into the realm of futurism and science fiction: most notably Obus, 1972 (National Gallery of Art, Washington), which took the form of a rocket launcher. In Crag with Yellow Boomerang and Red Eggplant, Calder envisages a biomorphic universe, both celestial and terrestrial: an uncharted universe in which the mountains, the heavens and the planets are brought into impossible alignment.

As a young artist, Calder’s emergence coincided with an interest in the Surrealist movement in the heady post-War milieu of 1930s Paris. He became closely acquainted with artists such as André Masson, Hans Arp, Max Ernst and Yves Tanguy, who harnessed the untapped dimensions of the unconscious and the imagination. Of Joan Miró, an artist whose vocabulary of spheres, stars and constellations was profound, Calder once said, ‘We became very good friends and attended may things together. I came to love his painting, his colour, his personages’ (A. Calder, quoted in E. Hutton and O. Wick (eds.), Calder Miró, London 2004, p. 27). For his part, Miró admired much of Calder’s early work, in particular – as Calder himself recalls – ‘the bits of paper’ used in his Cirque Calder. As he went on to explain, ‘These are little bits of white paper with a hole and a slight weight on each one, which flutter down several variously coiled thin steel wires, which I jiggle so that they flutter like doves onto the shoulders of a bejewelled circus “belle dame”’ (A. Calder, quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, Calder, Cologne 2002, p. 12). The present work, with its interlocking vertical and horizontal dimensions, seems to hark back to this vision so admired by Miró: a grandiose figure decorated with stars and diamonds. Though Calder’s use of paper would ultimately give way to sheet metal – a radical departure from the media employed by his Surrealist contemporaries – he never lost the visionary sense of weightlessness it engendered in his work. The sense of wonder and unearthly delight that defined his early relationship with Miró continues to manifest itself in Crag with Yellow Boomerang and Red Eggplant.

The present work unites the twin aesthetics of the mobiles and stabiles: one an expression of kinetic grace, the other a statement of steadfast gravitas. Paradoxically, the two formats were initially born of the same impetus: a desire to explore the interplay of forms and volumes in three-dimensional space. Writing as early as 1932, Calder articulated the basic premise of this enquiry. ‘How can art be realized? Out of volumes, motion, spaces bounded by the great space, the universe. Out of different masses, light, heavy, middling – indicated by variations of size or color – directional line – vectors which represent speeds, velocities, accelerations, forces, etc. ... – these directions making between them meaningful angles, and senses, together defining one big conclusion or many’ (A. Calder, ‘Comment réaliser l’art?’ Abstraction-Création, Art Non Figuratif, 1932, no. 1, p. 6). His fascination with motion and suspension, as realised in the mobiles, simultaneously led him to explore the earthbound and the immutable. Though seemingly opposed in their conceptual aims, the stabiles and the mobiles were united by a common aesthetic agenda, rooted in notions of balance, harmony and tension. By synthesising the two elements, as in the present work, Calder creates objects that inhabit their own dimensional reality: born of this world, yet seemingly bound by their own physical laws.

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