Alexander Calder (1899-1976)
Alexander Calder (1899-1976)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Dr. Marvin and Mrs. Natalie Gliedman
Alexander Calder (1899-1976)

Red Cascade

Details
Alexander Calder (1899-1976)
Red Cascade
incised with the artist's monogram 'CA' (on the largest element)
hanging mobile—sheet metal, wire and paint
33 x 41 x 21 ½ in. (83.8 x 104.1 x 54.6 cm.)
Executed in 1960.
Provenance
Perls Galleries, New York
Brook Street Gallery, London, 1968
Mr. and Mrs. Philip Gersh, Beverly Hills, California
Lewis Kaplan, London
John C. Stoller & Co., Minneapolis, Minnesota
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1979
Literature
J. P. Sartre, "Les Mobiles de Calder," Harvard Art Review, Spring 1966, p. 36 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Minneapolis, Minnesota, Walker Art Center, Calder's Universe, June-August 1977.
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Post lot text
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07558.

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

Alexander Calder’s Red Cascade offers up a flurry of vivid abstract elements which appear to float in space like autumnal leaves, before they slowly drift down to the ground. Its graceful composition epitomizes the poetic sculptures that have made Calder one of the most accomplished purveyors of form and color of the last half century. His prodigious output ranged from imaginative forms fashioned out of wire, to large monumental works that graced public spaces throughout the world. Executed in 1960, this particular example was produced at a highpoint in the artist’s career, at a time when he was realizing some of his most accomplished mobiles while also expanding his practice to produce his monumental stabiles. Exhibited in the seminal exhibition Calder’s Universe at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the work has remained in the same private collection for the past 40 years.

Red Cascade is the ultimate demonstration of Calder’s mastery of his medium. The individual red elements are joined together by a complex armature of metal wire, ensuring that each hangs perfectly in its space producing the effect of leaves caught in fall sunlight. Every element is allowed to move independently, yet when they are combined together it produce a sculpture that dances with passing breeze. Describing the artist’s mobiles, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Satre said “Each of its twists and turns is an inspiration of the moment. In it you can discern the theme composed by its maker, but the mobile weaves a thousand variations on it. It is a little hot-jazz tune, unique and ephemeral, like the sky, like the morning. If you missed it, it is lost forever” (J. Satre, "Les Mobiles des Calder," Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations, exh. cat. Galerie Louis Carré, 1946, pp. 9–19. English translation by Chris Turner, from The Aftermath of War: Jean-Paul Sartre. Available from: http://www.calder.org/life/system/downloads/1946-Sartre.pdf [accessed 11/3/20]).

Color, another characteristic of Calder’s work, is also on display here. By restricting his palette to this iconic fiery red, he emphasizes the form and cohesive nature of his sculpture, and would later explain that, after movement, color played a "secondary" role in his compositions. This use of color is something that is often underestimated in Calder’s work, yet it remains one of the most important and intrinsic qualities. He was once quoted as saying “It's really just for differentiation, but, I love red so much that I almost want to paint everything red. I often wish that I'd been a fauve in 1905” (A. Calder, quoted in U. Mulas & H.H. Arnason, Calder, London, 1971, p. 69).

Although resolutely non-representational, his choice of color was inextricably linked to the overall sense of dynamism that the artist was trying to achieve. Inspired by an early visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in Paris, Calder had felt that the static fields of color (and black, gray, and several whites) that the Dutch artist had used to decorate his walls would look better in oscillation. Mondrian disagreed, and apparently would subsequently come to claim that his paintings were faster than Calder's mobiles. However, looking at the bold red of Red Cascade, with its moving horizontal and vertical elements, one can see the reverberations of that early epiphany.

Red Cascade was included in one of the seminal exhibitions of Calder’s career, organized towards the end of his life by the Whitney Museum of American Art. It was an extensively survey of the artist’s works and included over 120 examples of his mobiles, stabiles, paintings, drawings, gouaches, tapestries, and jewelry. Writing in the New York Times, critic John Russell said “No living American artist is loved more than he… [The exhibition] does give us the fullest portrait to date of someone who has reworked the world in his own image and made a very good job of it” (J. Russell, ‘Calder’s Universe Enlivens Ark,” The New York Times, October 14, 1976. Available at: https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1976/10/14/75729837.html?pageNumber=43 [accessed 11/3/20]).

While it conjures up many associations, Red Cascade is not fettered by any direct notion of representation. Instead, it interacts with its environment and its viewer, participating actively in the universe in its own right. A push or a gust of wind will set its carefully balanced elements in motion, introducing the magical element of chance and movement that makes Calder's sculptures so fascinating. As he himself said, “To most people who look at a mobile, it’s no more than a series of flat objects that move. To a few though, it may be poetry” (A. Calder, quoted by J. Lipman, et. al., Calder’s Universe, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, 1976, p. 268).

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