Untitled transmits a dynamic torsion that wholly defies the work’s stationary nature. As each leg seems to simultaneously curve outward and sway inward, the upper pointed appendages reach in opposite directions, upwards toward the sky and downwards toward the ground. This contrapuntal form is nearly figurative in its coiling choreography; indeed, the vivacious momentum of Untitled calls to mind Calder’s beloved swaying “mobiles.” Movement played a vital role in Calder’s corpus from the artist’s earliest days; in October 1930, in what is now a famous visit he made to Piet Mondrian’s studio, where he was impressed by the environment, Calder became immediately and ineluctably enraptured with creating abstract compositions of moving elements. The kinetic mobiles, encouraged to move with the air’s currents, are celebrated for resembling drawings wrenched from the flat surface of the page and set free to float through the natural currents of their environment. The disparity between the mobile works and Calder’s standing sculptures prompted Jean Arp to famously dub the latter “stabiles,” a term that has come to encompass all of Calder’s still work, including the present sculpture. Though the distinction between these two bodies of work is well accepted, gallerist Marc Glimcher explained, “While some might consider the mobiles to be the ultimate expression of Calder’s use of ‘drawing in space,’ it is, in fact with the stabiles that Calder takes that final step.” Glimcher further notes that just as the artist’s wire sculptures and mobiles “borrow the fundamental drawing element of line and introduce it into the ‘real world,’ the [stabile] relies on the equally familiar element of drawing, the plane.” (Exh. Cat., New York, Pace Wildenstein, Calder: From Model to Monument, 2006, p. 5)
Calder is pictured in his New York studio beside an intact yet unpainted Devil Fish in a remarkable 1936 photograph by Herbert Matter. The photographer captures Calder’s process, as the artist’s tool marks are visible upon the raw metal. Successive denotations emphasize the sculpture’s spectacular arcs, once more expounding upon this formative moment in Calder’s career - in the late 1930s he not only mastered three-dimensional abstraction in metal, but he also invented the method of construction for his future monumental works. With both Devil Fish and Untitled, we experience the joyous creativity of a master of fluid form and bold graphics, eloquently described by Marla Prather in an essay on the aesthetic evolution of Calder’s work from 1937-1945: “The upright orientation of Calder’s freestanding sculpture and the beautifully curving silhouettes of its cut and bent forms underscore the new organic strain in Calder’s art, one that alludes to forms in the natural world without being tied specifically to any one of them.” (Exh. Cat., Washington, D. C., National Gallery of Art, Alexander Calder, 1898-1976, 1998, p. 136) Of the evolution of his methods, Glimcher wrote, “In Calder’s hands these technologies transformed art, just as it had transformed the cities that the monumental stabiles would soon inhabit. Among all the great innovations by all the great artists of the first half of the century, this may well have been the one that made abstraction truly modern.” (Op. Cit., p. 8)
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