painted metal hanging mobile
James Jones, Paris (a gift from the artist)
William Pall Gallery, New York (acquired from the above in 1984)
James Goodman Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Philadelphia
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Contemporary Art, 4 November 1987, Lot 87
Private Collection, New York
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Contemporary Art, 1 November 1994, Lot 37
Acquired directly from the above by the previous owner
Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Calder, 1967, no. 161A
Saint-Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, Calder, 1969, no. 1999
Perfectly poised in a suspended metallic ballet of ever-changing composition, Alexander Calder's sublime mobile Untitled is paradigmatic of his sculptural dexterity and inimitable aesthetic of hanging forms. With tremendous spatial economy this sculpture creates a self-contained universe of evolution, the elegant simplicity of its elements dancing through space. Tracing sublime orbits around each other as they dangle imperceptibly from their wire harnesses, the elements orientate through both horizontal and vertical axes to heighten the sense of surface animation. The individual painted metal sheets render discrete volumes of colour in space and their movement is determined by the air around them as they interact with the viewer and each other. Long renowned and celebrated for their outstanding beauty and craftsmanship, the sculptures of Calder, epitomised by the present work, are testament to his technical skill, imaginative genius and unmatched talent for three-dimensional composition.
Calder had been grappling with the questions of how to depict abstract forms in three-dimensions since being in Paris in the 1930s. His visit to Piet Mondrian's studio in October 1930 acted as a catalyst to translate the fundamental aesthetic of his art from the representational to abstraction. Although Mondrian's large, light studio was like a spatial equivalent to one of his paintings, it prompted Calder to consider "how fine it would be if everything moved; though Mondrian himself did not approve this idea at all'' (the artist cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Alexander Calder, 1955, p. 26). Shortly after his catharsis Calder explained "Why must art be static? You look at an abstraction, sculptured or painted, an entirely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion" (the artist in: 'Objects to Art Being Static, So He Keeps it in Motion', New York World-Telegram, 11th June, 1932). His resultant aesthetic dialect stemmed from the invention of new types of sculptural constructs that harmoniously integrated solid shapes with linear, ethereal elements. When Calder asked Marcel Duchamp in 1931 to suggest a name for his new constructions Duchamp proposed the term "mobiles". Having broken down the boundaries of established sculpture, this unprecedented art form required a new descriptive lexicon. These sculptures caused a sensation in the Paris art world, earned him worldwide recognition and have of course become synonymous with his name. Having revelled in the challenges of harmonizing sculptural design with technical concerns and site-specific parameters and winning the Grand Prize in sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1952 for his innovative and ingenious use of sheet metal, Calder became consumed by the possibilities of three-dimensional movement via the hanging mobile format.
Calder intentionally reduced his palette primarily to black and strong primaries; carefully organising counterpoints in red, yellow, and blue, and conscious that colour relationships have a kinetic quality that adds a sense of weight and movement to individual pieces. InUntitled balance is struck between the various organic shapes through changing colour-relationships. Calder's sculpture provides a certain destiny of movement for its forms, but also facilitates an independent life beyond the restrictions of its structure, which is governed by nature's elements. As Jean-Paul Satre commented, "Calder establishes a general career of movement and then he abandons it; it is the time of day, the sunshine, the heat, the wind which will determine each individual dance. Thus, the object remains always midway between the slavishness of the statue and the independence of natural occurrences; each of its evolutions is an inspiration of the moment" (Jean-Paul Sartre in: Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Galerie Louis Carré, Alexander Calder, 1946). However, despite Sartre's Existentialist view of Calder's work as devoid of any relative context, Calder himself acknowledged influences from the natural world. Leaves, branches, flowers, and animals served as inspiration for Calder's abstract yet organic forms, and appear in some of the titles of his sculptures. Asked to define his artistic approach, Calder again evoked the importance of his visit to Mondrian's studio: "Each thing I make has, according to its degree of success, a plastic quality, which includes many things – the mass or masses; the sinuosity; the contrast of black to white; the contrast of somberness to colour; whatever element of movement there is in the object, even its manner of suspension" (the artist cited in: Margaret Bruening, "Calder mobiles and stabiles", American Magazine of Art, no. 32, June 1939, p. 361).Untitled is a wonderful example of these "many things" and represents the very best features in balance, colour, design and movement of Calder's inspirational language of hanging sculpture.
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