ALEXANDER CALDER (1898-1976)
ALEXANDER CALDER (1898-1976)
ALEXANDER CALDER (1898-1976)
ALEXANDER CALDER (1898-1976)
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Property from an Important European Private Collection
ALEXANDER CALDER (1898-1976)

Untitled

Details
ALEXANDER CALDER (1898-1976)
Untitled
incised with the artist's monogram and date ' CA 70' (on the standing element)
standing mobile—sheet metal, wire and paint
22 3⁄4 x 27 x 24 in. (57.8 x 68.6 x 61 cm.)
Executed in 1970.
Provenance
Gift of the artist to the present owner, circa 1970
Post lot text
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A16664.

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Lot Essay

“Valery said of the sea that it is a perpetual recommencement. A “mobile” is in this way like the sea, and is equally enchanting: forever re-beginning, forever new. No use throwing it a passing glance, you must live with it and be fascinated by it. Then and only then will you feel the beauty of its pure and changing forms, at once so free and so disciplined.”
(J. Sartre, “Les Mobiles des Calder,” in Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations, exh. cat., Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, 1946)
Alexander Calder’s 1970 Untitled is a shining example of the artist’s iconic artistry and jubilant yet graceful style. An oblong base serves as a stage for the elegant dance of color and form played out by the mobiles. A compositional equilibrium is struck between these two mobiles – the fiery red and bright yellow discs of one are cooled off by the tranquil whites of the other. Reminiscent of the crest and trough of a wave, the raised triangular portion of the base reinforces the sense of dynamism and balance that is constant throughout the universe. In typical Calder fashion, Untitled embodies the flow of the cosmos in a manner that is both warmly engaging and meditative.
Made only seven years before his death, Calder’s Untitled exemplifies artist’s career-long investigations into movement, color, and perception. This standing mobile features two active ends: one protrudes proudly upwards with a white circle crowning the silver line and two triangular white forms flaring from the halfway-point, while the other tops the crest of a swooping wave, embellished with crimson and goldenrod discs. Calder has chosen to incorporate a sheet metal base, one whose innovative curved construction allows it to stabilize the four moving elements. The approachable size of the standing mobile allows the viewer to regard it as a contained, harmonious whole. Perhaps the most intriguing element of Untitled is this balance that arises from the varied collection of thicknesses, heights, and protruding directions. With this work, Calder creatively embraces the materiality of sheet metal to propel Untitled through two and three dimensions. The line pointing upwards looks almost like a sketch in the air, a drawn silver arrow up from the base. Yet, this line somehow spreads into the triangular plane of the other side of the work, barreling into the third dimension. This playful jumping between the line and the flat plane is complicated by the introduction of movement into the work, as the slightest breeze or gust of a viewer’s breath may send the delicate discs into a flurry of trembling motion. With its sleek silver curves and playful color choice, Untitled serves as a testament to the artist’s mastery of elegance and individuality, resulting in a beauty to delight both the eye and the mind.
In 1926, a young Calder moved to Paris, a change that introduced him to Modernist tendencies of the international avant-garde. In Paris, Calder mingled with the budding Surrealist movement, a relationship that would make a lifelong imprint on his work: “It is impossible accurately to estimate the relative importance of the younger surrealists, until aided by the perspective of time. Outstanding among the newcomers seem to be Gisèle Prassinos, Richard Oelze, Hans Bellmer, Leonor Fini, Alexander Calder, and Joseph Cornell … Calder is sometimes surrealist and sometimes abstractionist. It is to be hoped that he may soon choose in which direction he will throw the weight of his talents” (J. Levy, Surrealism, New York, 1936, p. 28). Surrealist paintings like Yves Tanguy’s Through Birds, Through Fire But Not Through Glass (1943) strike remarkable parallels to Calder’s Untitled, particularly in the use of oranges, reds, and silvers. Both works raise questions of the line between imagination and reality, entering the realm of waking dream. Calder’s work brings Tinguy’s vision to fruition in his pared down materialization of a form similar to that in Through Fire But Not Through Glass. The dreamy surrealism that persists in so many of Calder’s works is on full display in Untitled, which illustrates his singular spirit of imagination in color and form.
 “Why must art be static? You look at an abstraction, sculptured or painted, an intensely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect, but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion” (A. Calder, “Objects to Art Being Static, So He Keeps It in Motion,” New York World-Telegram, June 11, 1932).
These words, spoken by Calder in 1932 at the beginning of his career, ring true for the entirety of the artist’s immense oeuvre. Alexander Calder created sculptures at one with the machinations of the natural world, shedding light on the barely perceptible forces occurring all around us. Calder’s mobiles can catch the slightest breeze and come alive, morphing themselves into never-before-seen forms. In this way Calder’s works are direct extensions of the universe. They are not descriptive- they are active. As a leaf quivers in the wind, so to do Calder’s delicate wires and discs waver upon their axis- as the moon rotates the earth and the earth rotates the sun, the arms of Calder’s creations perform rhythmic revolutions, detailing an epic macrocosmic event in them most intimate and personal of scales.

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