This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A02138.
Alexander Calder in his studio in Woodbury, Connecticut, January 1957. Photo by Arnold Newman/Getty Images. Artwork: (c) 2013 Calder Foundation, New York/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Shortly before he created The Amoeba, Calder told interviewer Maurice Bruzeau, "I am not trying to make people happier by my work. But it happens that all those who have something of mine, painting, mobile or static statue, say that it makes them very happy." (Carmen Gimènez and Alexander S.C. Rower, eds., Calder: Gravity and Grace, New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2004, p. 54). With spokes radiating like rays of sunshine topped with round disks painted in Calder's favorite, cheerful primary colors of red, blue and yellow, and white. The Amoeba exudes all the qualities that enable Calder's work to make people very happy. A stabile, it is also that remarkable art form that Calder wholly invented with its elegant, gently interwoven combination of stillness and movement.
Here the fanciful curvilinear forms are attached to a whimsical curving amoeba-like shape from which the title is derived. These elements delicately sit atop a triangular, bright red pedestal with a cut-out that is not quite ovoid and not quite pear-shaped. Distinguishing this delightful work is the brass body that Calder has crafted into the sculpture with wire and painted sheet metal. Rather than covering the brass, he has chosen to leave it wearing its golden-brown tones, further enhancing the warmth of the work.
Since the beginning, Calder's aspired to "make things that are fun to look at, that have no propaganda value whatsoever" as he explained in 1957. His wife, Louisa, elaborated further on her husband's innate penchant for joy: "He is always expressing his sense of pleasure and his joie de vivre. He isn't an unhappy man. His isn't tormented. He enjoys life." (The artist and his wife quoted in Marla Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, exhibition catalogue, Washington: The National Gallery of Art, 1998, 279).
The Amoeba was executed late in the artist's career, only two years before his death. During this period, when he wasn't accepting the numerous awards that were being reigned down upon him from all over the globe, Calder was busy creating monumental sculptures intended for public and outdoor spaces. Still working seven days a week, Calder remained staggeringly prolific. In spite of the time amount of time he was spending on foundry work, he found time every day to spend at his workbench, alone in his studio, constructing his cherished smaller scale works. Recalling a visit to his studio in Saché in the Loire Valley the same year The Amoeba was created, Albert E. Elsen said, "Just the sight of his workbench, a multipurpose operating table, battle field, and junk pile, helps one realize that he has set up the conditions for a daily dialogue with his materials. Surrounded by past works Calder stages the constant interrogation of himself, his materials, and art, about what he can use to realize new imagery and signs." (Ibid., 280).
Although The Amoeba was created later in his career it nevertheless emanates a freshness, a lightness of touch, a newness that are hallmarks of Calder's work. At the same time, it is a mature artist harking back to his early work in which each uniquely pointed or round shape resonates with the singular touch of the great master's hand.