This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A02506.
“When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life…” –Alexander Calder
Executed in 1975, Black Tulip in the Air, is an extraordinary work of kinetic sculpture and a vibrant example of Alexander Calder’s signature style. The mobile’s continuously moving form, one that morphs into an infinite number of possible forms, is complimented by a full spectrum of Calder’s riotous use of color. Inspired by nature, Calder’s red, blue, yellow, and black elements evoke living forms, like petals floating through the breeze. Black Tulip in the Air was executed during the latter stages of Calder’s life when he was primarily working on large-scale public monuments. Black Tulip in the Air gave him the opportunity to return to working with a form that allowed him close and personal contact with his materials, and to investigate the contrast, balance, mobility and simplicity found in some of his greatest works. As Calder himself explained, “Disparity in form, color, size, weight, motion, is what makes a composition...It is the apparent accident to regularity which the artist actually controls by which he makes or mars a work” (A. Calder, quoted in J. Lipman, Calder’s Universe, London, 1977, p.33). In this work the balance is achieved by his skillful arrangement of metal components that cascade down in a sweeping array of polychrome shapes from the sculpture’s delicate wire arms. Calder’s inclusion of cut-out portions in the central blue and red elements adds to this sense of visual harmony, as these particular elements are released from the heavy restraints of their outlines. Calder’s comprehensive knowledge of engineering, he graduated from college with a degree in mechanical engineering, allowed him to produce physical equilibrium as well as visual balance.
Black Tulip in the Air is similar to Calder’s earlier mobiles in that the piece interacts with its environment by converging pictorial, sculptural and kinetic elements. The slightest shift of air gently sets the delightfully colored blades into motion, changing the space surrounding the mobile by alternating areas of light and shadow. Most famous for his creation of the mobile, Alexander Calder fuses movement and art in his sculpture. Calder’s development of this unique form was inspired by a visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in Paris in 1930. On his return he began to introduce movement and color into a genre that that previously been defined by its static nature. The allure of abstraction drove Calder to contemplate, “Why must art be so static? You look at an abstraction, sculptured or painted, an entirely 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 of Art being Static, So He Keeps it in Motion’, New York World-Telegram, June, 11, 1932).
Alexander Calder’s intimate work on Black Tulip in the Air is demonstrated in each unique disc that he himself crafted in the final years of his life and career. A dynamic arrangement of various shapes and a range of colors make this particular mobile a visual delight. Movement, color and the essence of nature is embedded in this captivating work. One of the last mobiles he ever created, it acts as fitting tribute to the genre he defined and is the perfect embodiment of the joy he found in such works, “When everything goes right,” he once said “a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life…” (A. Calder, Calder, London, 2004, p. 261).