This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A01675.
Executed circa 1955, Untitled is one of Alexander Calder's celebrated Mobiles. In these works, Calder introduced a sense of genuine movement to the art works of his age, revolutionising notions of what sculpture and painting could be. Originally inspired by a visit to Piet Mondrian's studio during the 1930s, when he had been struck by the visual intensity of the rectangles of colour on the walls, Calder decided that those forms would look even better in motion, an idea of which Mondrian himself disapproved. However, within a short time, Calder had brought some of the playfulness with which he had created his sprawling Circus to a new abstract art-form. It was his friend and fellow artist Marcel Duchamp who initially suggested that these be referred to as mobiles, creating a play on words: as well as implying the movement of works such as Untitled, it means 'motive' in French.
In Untitled, the deliberately restrained aesthetic of the various floating discs balancing on their strange base teeters on the brink of the formal, as is accentuated by the palette, limited to black, white and red. This recalls Mondrian's original influence, adding a sense of the abstract; yet Untitled clearly also relates to the orreries, the mechanical models of the planetary system, that had so long fascinated Calder. The planets, space and the stars act as the original model for these works:
"The first impression I ever had was the cosmos, the planetary system. My mother used to say to me, 'But you don't know anything about the stars.' I'd say, 'No, I don't, but you can have an idea what they're like without knowing all about them and shaking hands with them'" (Calder, quoted in J. Lipman, Calder's Universe, London 1977, p. 17).
Untitled 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 will set its carefully balanced elements in motion, introducing that magical element of chance and movement that makes Calder's sculptures so fascinating. As he himself said, 'When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises' (Calder, quoted in Ibid., p. 261).