Private Collection, Luxembourg
Private Collection, Frankfurt
Greenberg Gallery, St. Louis and Simon/Neuman Gallery, New York
Dingwall Investments SA
Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, St Louis
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1996
Aquatic life was a crucial source of inspiration and fascination to Calder: fish, in particular, are a recurring theme within his oeuvre from the late 1920s onwards. One of the earliest fish sculptures, Goldfish Bowl, was created in 1929 as part of the series of wire works and was distinguished by the presence of a mechanism that, when turned, enabled the fish to seemingly swim within their container. Further examples of fish inspired mobiles from almost every decade of Calder’s career are contained within prestigious collections such as The Museum of Modern Art in New York (Lobster Trap and Fish Tail, 1939), The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice (Silver Bed Head, 1945-6) and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington (Fish Mobile, 1966).
It was Marcel Duchamp who had first employed the term ‘mobile’ to refer to Calder’s ground-breaking kinetic sculptures, the earliest example of which was created in 1932. Calder’s first works were wittily eloquent sculptures made of wire and wood which could be manipulated to give the impression of movement, yet the sculptor was determined to further pursue the possibilities of kineticism in art. It was a now legendary visit to Mondrian’s studio in 1930 that provided the creative spur, as Calder later recalled: “Mondrian’s large, light, irregularly proportioned studio seemed to be one of his paintings transposed into space. The immaculate white of the walls was interrupted by removable rectangles in red, blue or yellow… the lights came in from the left and from the right, crossed each other, and I imagined at this moment how beautiful it would be if everything started to move” (the artist cited in: Ibid., p. 20). Calder’s first true hanging mobile, Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere (1932) was a simple construction that was composed of only two components, with both elements moving of their own accord in a revolutionary departure from previous sculptural precedent. From this pioneering beginning, Calder’s hanging mobiles developed rapidly to attain increasing levels of complexity and intricacy, as the sculptor discovered and utilised the astonishing potential of kinetic art to remarkable effect.
By the time Untitled was created in 1958, Calder was enjoying ever increasing international recognition and renown. His success during this period was recognised through the award of the prestigious Carnegie prize as well as the completion of several major public commissions in the same year: works such as The Spiral for the UNESCO building in Paris, The Whirling Ear for the Brussels Fair and for Idlewild International Airport in New York, all of which signalled a move towards the monumental. In contrast, the exquisite delicacy of Untitled recalls Calder’s earlier mobiles in its dynamism and dancing movements, a celebration of the extraordinary possibilities of kinetic sculpture. In its fusion of organic form with abstract elements, Untitled arguably stands at the pinnacle of Calder’s sculptural achievements, an exuberant and animated work that justifies Calder’s own belief that “Sculpture should appear free of gravity and should be able to move; solid sculptural form may be flat, but all sculpture should be painted; and whether scintillating or solemn, sculpture must be a joy to look at” (the artist cited in: Ibid., p. 50). The beautifully balanced creation of Untitled, in which each individual element forms an integral part of the whole, is a magnificent testament to Calder’s unbounded imagination as well as to his continued explorations into sculpture and kinetic expression.
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