'To most people who look at a mobile, it's no more than a series of flat objects that move. To a few, though, it may be poetry' (Alexander Calder, quoted in Jean Lipman, Calder's Universe, London 1977, p.268).
Calder's 'mobile' is four, not three dimensional - it changes from moment to moment according to its own whims through external forces like the wind or a hand. Untitled interacts with the its viewer and environment, influenced in its movements by both. Every movement results in a change of appearance, meaning that the mobile takes on a new form every moment, recreated by its surroundings.
The delicate game of balance in the layers of red leaves is made all the more impressive because the leaves, which are deliberately made to appear light and floating, are also the ballast for the whole mobile. The viewer cannot help but understand the simple physics at work: the seemingly weightless elements, submissive to every breath of wind, in fact act as weights. Calder's use of a very constrained palette in the present work, limited to red, white and black extends the abstraction to every aspect of its form. Untitled's refinement, a hallmark of Calder's later mobile production, is delicately underlined by the poetic elegance of this group of leaves fluttering in every breath of wind.
The name 'mobile', applied to Calder's moving works, was given by Marcel Duchamp, who chose the word because of its double-meaning in French: it also means 'motive'. Where a painter's canvases are static, attached to a wall, and sculptures stand still on the floor, Calder's Untitled refuses to be trapped by the same traditional methods of display, constantly redefining the space in which it is mounted. It does not occupy floor space at all, instead hanging from the ceiling, a domain formerly exclusive to fresco-painters: 'People think monuments should come out of the ground, never out of the ceiling, but mobiles can be monumental too' (Calder quoted in Lipman, op.cit., p.268).
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A13151.