‘When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises’ (A. Calder, quoted in E. Hutton and O. Wick (eds.), Calder, London, 2004, p. 261).
In Alexander Calder’s Trois cercles, bleu, jaune, rouge a floating arrangement of multi-coloured discs extends elegantly from a biomorphic black support, encapsulating the artist’s innovative combination of sculptural dynamism and grace. Employing the full spectrum of Calder’s riotous palette, from out of the centre of a vivid red disc, a graceful cascade of contrasting geometric forms in blue, black, yellow and white, emerge on slender stems of glistening metal. Mounted on the wall, Trois cercles, bleu, jaune, rouge incorporates the agility that Calder pioneered in his groundbreaking mobiles, with the substantial sculptural presence of his stabiles, the monumental commissions that dominated his late practice. Engaged in a delicate balancing act between stillness and mobility, Trois cercles, bleu, jaune, rouge bears witness to Calder’s exceptional talent both as an artist and an engineer. Having initially trained in this line of work after leaving school, Calder’s technical grounding enabled him to harness the physical forces of his chosen medium with carefully-calculated precision. His meticulous structural dynamics are combined with a bold use of colour which, when filtered through the sensation of movement, produces a spectacular optical and kinetic effect. For Calder, colour was not a representational force but rather an emotional one, much in the same vein as artists such as Henri Matisse and André Derain who pioneered a non-literal approach to chromaticism. As Calder himself once commented, ‘I want things to be differentiated … but I love red so much that I almost want to paint everything red. I often wish that I had been a fauve in 1905’ (A. Calder, quoted in E. Hutton and O. Wick (eds.), Calder, London 2004, p. 89).
Trois cercles, bleu, jaune, rouge demonstrates the all-encompassing universality of Calder’s art. In the skilful arrangement of metal components visual harmony is achieved through the balance of colour and form, combining seemingly contradictory elements into one harmonious sculptural entity. Casting ever-changing combinations of shadow, the elegant silhouette of the work is in constant motion, its carefully balanced elements subject to the chance effects of a gentle push or a gust of wind. The striking constituents are united through a series of intricate, interconnected mechanisms that allow them to move both independently of, and in tandem with, one another. Though its structure conjures myriad formal associations, Untitled is unfettered by any direct notion of representation. Instead, it interacts with its environment and its viewer, functioning as an object in its own right. Capturing kinetic energy in the autonomous proportions of his elegant creations, Calder’s mobiles direct their own passage with effortless grace. In the artist’s words, ‘When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises’ (A. Calder, quoted in E. Hutton and O. Wick (eds.), Calder, London, 2004, p. 261).