Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Black Palette, Red Spike

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Black Palette, Red Spike
standing mobile--signed with monogram 'CA' (on the base)
painted sheet metal and wire
35½ x 21 x 19 in. (90.2 x 53.3 x 48.2 cm.)
Executed in 1947.
Acquired from the artist
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, London, 27 June 1985, lot 555
Stanley J. Seeger, London, acquired at the above sale
His sale; Sotheby's, New York, 8 May 2001, lot 33
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles, June-July 1950, no. 16.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Alexander Calder, October-November 1950, no. 14.
Stockholm, Galerie Blanche, Alexander Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles, December 1950.
London, Lefevre Gallery, Mobiles and Stabiles by Alexander Calder, January 1951.
Vienna, Neue Galerie, Alexander Calder, May-June 1951.

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A05127.

Calder's mobiles are as diverse as light and space. He made stage decor for Martha Graham, the ingenious Mercury Fountain for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exposition, and even a sort of water mobile, first designed for the New York World's Fair in 1939 and ultimately executed in 1954 as a Water Ballet for the General Motors Technological Center in Detroit.

In Black Palette, Red Spike, Calder heightens the sense of sculptural transparency and surface animation by piercing elements of the mobile. Piercing allows Calder to adjust both the physical and visual weight of the mobile. In the artist's search for kinetic relationships, movement and weight are expressed by contrasting vertical and horizontal elements, and color is employed to enhance both the structural and formal clarity of the work.

Piercing brings negative space into the positive and underscores that sculpture must necessarily be present and absent, fluid and static. "To appreciate it fully, Calder's motion must be seen in relation to his repose; the mobile must be contemplated with the stabile; its emergence from static concepts and its ultimate integration in a dual entity that fuses the static and the dynamic must be felt before we may claim our full reward in understanding and pleasure" (T. Messer, Alexander Calder: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1964, p. 13).

This jewel-like construction plays with positive and negative space, differentiating each facet to create an object that functions most perfectly when seen fully in the round-an object which moves and moves us by making us move.

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