This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A08085.
“No artist since Leonardo da Vinci had so closely studied not only the magic but also the mechanics of forms moving through air.”
(J. Perls, “Sensibility and Science”, Calder and Abstraction, Los Angeles, p. 36)
Both artist and engineer, Alexander Calder challenged the very norms of sculpture in the 20th century. Prior to 1930, sculpture was understood as a carefully planned and motionless mass, an understanding that had held for time immemorial. In exploring of the physical possibilities of sculpture, Calder transcended its very meaning, the result of which were masterpieces of mechanical and aesthetic achievement.
One of Alexander Calder’s celebrated standing mobiles, Crinkly Red and Blue, 1968, is an excellent example of the more intimate and personal contemplations on form and gesture from later in the artist’s career. Created at a time when Calder was widely known and revered for his large installations in public spaces, his smaller works from the 1960s and 1970s indicate a return to the origin of his creative style.
This standing mobile employs the quintessential Calder palette of primary colors, a palette he borrowed from Mondrian and the early constructivists after visiting the elder artist’s studio in 1930. The crinkled base of red and blue, a fusion of both organic and mechanical forms, supports an elevated wire element. On one end of the wire, three suspended quadrilateral yellow shapes orbit about the tripedal base. These elements are counterbalanced by a perforated black oval on the other end of the wire, its curvilinear figure forming a dark halo over the pointed top of the abstracted, bird-like base. The black element—stamped with ‘CA 68’—poses an almost calming counterpoint to the kinetic, unpredictable motion of the yellow elements it supports.
Through his own unique visual and mechanical lexicon, Calder both channels and reinterprets two of his major influences, Miró and Duchamp. He recalls Surrealism through the way in which chance encounters with its natural setting affect the way in which his creation is perceived by the viewer, while the found object aesthetic of the standing mobile’s individual pieces reference Dadaism. The ultimate effect is a creation imbued with a sense of movement, balance, and playfulness.
Calder’s art is succinctly summed up by a comment he made to an interviewer shortly before his death: “I want to make things that are fun to look at” (A. Calder as quoted in Alexander Calder 1898-1976, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., 1998, p. 279). Appropriately, Crinkly Red and Blue practically beckons the viewer to interact with it, creating a sense that the smallest nudge or light breeze will send the sculpture out of stillness and into its natural rhythmic state of motion.