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Property from the Family of Robert Treat Paine II

Five Black Polygons on Red and Yellow

Five Black Polygons on Red and Yellow
incised with the artist's monogram 'CA' (lower edge)
standing mobile—sheet metal, brass, wire and paint
12 ¾ x 19 ½ x 13 ¼ in. (32.4 x 49.5 x 33.7 cm.)
Executed in 1960.
Perls Galleries, New York
Makler Gallery, Philadelphia
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1965
Little Rock, Arkansas Art Center, The Works of Alexander Calder, March-April 1962.
Further details
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A02831.

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Lot Essay

Why must sculpture be static? You look at abstraction, sculptured or painted, an entirely exciting arrangement of planes, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect but always still. The next step is sculpture in motion.
—Alexander Calder

Displaying Calder’s interest in both form and color, this polychrome work cleverly sets off the dark tonality of its black-painted elements against the sculptures’ dual-hued stabile support of red and yellow and linear brass element, creating a powerful construction of tonally-contrasting floating shapes. A striking splash of brilliant red on one side contrasted by a bright canary yellow on the other wide, Five Black Polygons on Red and Yellow offers a vivid color counterpoint to the darker hues of the hanging elements of the sculpture. Calder used the term “disparity” to describe how he employed carefully chosen tonal combinations to create a powerfully asymmetrical yet perfectly balanced tension in his sculptures. The intentionally placed range of hues in the present work is subtle, never overwhelming the sculpture’s essential shapes and lines, and allowing the viewer to savor the artwork’s silhouette and enjoy the ebb and flow of the mobile’s spontaneous motion.
Projecting the entire fascination and allure of Calder’s singular style, this table top work possesses all the energy and grace of the artist’s larger sculptures. Both stationary in its grounded nature, yet unbounded by gravity through its hanging elements, Five Black Polygons on Red and Yellow extends dynamically into the air, embodying both of Calder’s signature sculptural innovations—the solidity, stability, and groundedness of his stabiles with the dynamic, kinetic nature of his mobiles. Reflecting on Calder’s radical genius, the work remains just as fresh and vital today, decades after it was created.

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