This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A05598.
In 1975, the Galerie Maeght in Paris opened an exhibition entitled Crags and Critters which plunged the viewer into the playful universe of Alexander Calder. The show comprised a group of playful characters who were exhibited alongside the Crags of the title. Many of these figures were presented standing on three legs, and some had other unusual features, including extra arms. By contrast, the present Critter appears to play humorously on the necessity for its fellow creatures to have an extra limb for balance: stripped of the third leg, this Critter is shown sitting, one of its two legs arched in front of it, the other in the air, as though it were in the process of falling and landing on its outstretched arm. In this way, Calder implies that the two-legged Critter, which appears female, may appear more human, with its regular accompaniment of legs and arms; however, this is clearly a limitation in the world of its more monstrous upright fellows.
The Critters showed Calder returning to the figuration and indeed sense of caricature that had been such a popular feature in his early career, above all when one considers the success of his miniature circus, the Cirque Calder during the 1920s. In that complex work, a number of hand-held and hand-activated puppets performed various feats, many of them accomplished through the control and intervention of Calder, the arch ringmaster, himself. Calder's Circus, which is now in the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, presented wryly sketched figures on a small scale; in his Critters, that humanoid content has been reprised in a wry manner, yet on a larger scale. While the Crags presented an environment for these wilderness creatures, the Critters themselves often approximate human scale, making them all the more engaging and adding an immediacy to the reaction of the viewers confronted with these figures.