This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07401.
The concept of the mobile was born from Calder's desire to put two-dimensional art into motion. By combining biomorphic shapes and planar elements with simple wire constructions, Calder helped to liberate sculpture from its fixed pedestal setting. Calder's simplified forms and bold use of primary colors show the influence of Piet Mondrian, whose studio had much impressed the young artist.
Calder's works were always infused with an element of fantasy and playfulness. A sense of whimsicality was pervasive throughout his oeuvre starting with his Cirque Calder from his small-scale performance piece whose cast of characters included figurines sculpted from wood, wire and cloth, and continuing throughout his long career into the 1970s. The idea of playfulness in abstract sculpture, born out of the humor that Klee and Miro brought to modern painting, is one of Calder's most significant contributions to 20th-century art.
Playfulness is clearly present in the present lot, which Calder delightfully titled Little White-Bottomed. The work is composed of eleven multi-colored and variously shaped elements that are organized along horizontal planes which circle around eachother evoking planets circling around the sun. What makes Little White-Bottomed unique, however, is the fact that Calder painted the underside of each of the elements white, thus its whimsical title. For Calder, color was not a representational force but rather an emotional one, in much the same way as the historical pioneers in non-traditional use of color such as Henri Matisse and Andr Derain. As Calder himself once commented: "I want things to be differentiated. Black and white are first - then red is next. I often wish that I had been a fauve in 1905." (A. Calder, Calder, London, 2004, p. 89).
Little White-Bottomed clearly demonstrates the all-encompassing universality of Calder's art. His unique ability was to create works of exquisitely balanced composition which retain their harmony when moved by the merest breath of wind. The striking colored elements are all coupled together using a series of exceptional mechanisms that allow them to move independently of each other yet retaining a unity that ensures that none of the elements dominate or touch each other. While it conjures up the association of a constellation, Little White-Bottomed is not fettered by any direct notion of representation. Instead, it interacts with its environment and its viewer, participating actively in the universe in its own right. A push or a gust of wind will set its carefully balanced elements in motion, introducing the magical element of chance and movement that make Calder's sculptures so fascinating. As Calder himself said, 'When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises' (A. Calder, Calder, London, 2004, p. 261).