12
12

PROPERTY FROM A PROMINENT MIDWEST COLLECTION

Alexander Calder
ROXBURY FRONT
Estimate
3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,980,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
12

PROPERTY FROM A PROMINENT MIDWEST COLLECTION

Alexander Calder
ROXBURY FRONT
Estimate
3,000,0004,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,980,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Alexander Calder
1898 - 1976
ROXBURY FRONT
incised with the artist's monogram and dated 65 on the black element
sheet metal, rod, wire, and paint
67 by 142 by 25 in. 170.2 by 360.7 by 63.5 cm.
Executed in 1965, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07410.
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Provenance

Perls Galleries, New York
Palmer and Charles Ducommun, Los Angeles (acquired from the above)
Christie's New York, May 5, 1992, Lot 38 (consigned by the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

New York, Perls Galleries, Alexander Calder - Recent Gouaches, Mobiles, Stabiles, February - March 1966

Catalogue Note

Achieving a delicate formal beauty which belies its grand scale, Roxbury Front from 1965 epitomizes the virtuosic investigation of form, motion, and color that lies at the heart of Alexander Calder’s iconic sculpture oeuvre. Hovering, seemingly weightless, above the viewer, the fifteen exquisitely cascading elements – eleven white, three red, and a single black disc – communicate a sense of limitless kinetic possibility, shifting and rotating to create infinite permutations within the simplest of abstract forms in perfect equilibrium. Titled after the artist’s home and studio in Roxbury, Connecticut, the dramatic scale of Roxbury Front speaks to the extraordinary inspiration Calder drew from the sprawling countryside of his eighteen-acre home and enormous, open-air studio there. In its formal dynamism and arresting beauty, Roxbury Front is a paradigmatic example of Calder’s cherished mobiles, the artist’s most iconic body of work; feats of both their maker’s inquisitive mind and intuitive process, the mobiles mark Calder at his most technically adept and conceptually inventive. Suspended from an intricate wire framework, the fifteen elements of Roxbury Front are, without intervention, a static sculpture; once activated by the slightest breath of air, however, the elements spring into life, moving with a seamlessly choreographed cadence that seems to defy gravity itself. 

Achieving an exquisite balance between weight and counterweight, form and structure, element and air, Roxbury Front exemplifies the captivating formal beauty that is utterly unique to Calder's canon of suspended forms. Hailed as one of the most important sculptors of the twentieth century, Calder’s output was the product of his artistic heritage and inclination. Born into a family of sculptors, Calder enrolled in the Art Students League in New York in 1923 to study painting; just three years later, his inherent creative drive and flair for the arts impelled him to move to Paris, where he would attract the attention of contemporaries such as Joan Miró, Man Ray, Fernand Léger, Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, and Piet Mondrian. Indeed, the impetus behind Calder’s move to airborne abstraction occurred in a now legendary visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930, where the sight of rectangles of colored paper, arranged on the wall, for compositional experimentation, inspired Calder to think of the kinetic possibilities of art. In an interview in 1932, Calder revealed his excitement at the extraordinary new creative world he was discovering: “Why must art be static?... You look at an abstraction, sculptured or painted, an intensely 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.” (Alexander Calder quoted in Howard Greenfield, The Essential Alexander Calder, New York, 2003, p. 67)

In Roxbury Front, Calder pays subtle homage to the singular importance of another place, which played an equally formative role in the development of his artistic practice; for while the inspiration for his mobiles began in Paris, it was in Roxbury, Connecticut, that Calder’s mobiles truly took flight. Calder and his wife, Louisa, purchased a dilapidated farmhouse in Roxbury in 1933, in an area of Connecticut that would become something of a mecca for the avant-garde of the day. The Calders could count as neighbors the poet Hart Crane, critic Robert Coates, and writer Malcolm Cowley, among others, many of whom gathered at the Calder’s Roxbury home in later years for lengthy dinner salons and discussions. In the late 1930s, Calder constructed his studio, a vast glass-and-cinderblock atrium, on the foundations of an abandoned barn east of the farmhouse. It was there, as he began to produce his mobiles in earnest, that Calder would craft his most poetic constellations. In contrast with his earlier work, which had been essentially urban in inspiration: “In Connecticut, Calder experienced nature more directly. He was affected by the leafing out of trees in spring, the air currents moving the clouds, the dance of snowflakes in the midst of a storm, the actuality of bodies, including the body of the artist himself, moving through space and time." (Jed Perl, Calder: The Conquest of Time, The Early Years, 1898 – 1940, New York, 2017, p. 447) Indeed, it was during their first year in Roxbury that Calder began to produce his iconic standing mobiles, creating large sculptures with mobile elements meant to stand out of doors that could be placed around the Calders' sprawling eighteen acre property. Writing at the time, the artist described: “I have made a number of things for the open air – all of them react to the wind, and are like sailing vessels in that they react best to one kind of breeze.” (The artist quoted in Ibid, p. 448) Scholar Jed Perl, Calder’s biographer, reflects: “The Roxbury studio became the center of Calder’s world…in some sense, it would be the Roxbury studio that remained forever the essential Calder studio.” He concludes, “It was the place where his winged vision really took flight—a light-filled double-square space deep in the hills of Yankee Connecticut.” (Ibid., p. 563) A fitting homage to the studio which so inspired him, Roxbury Front attests not only to the brilliance of one of twentieth-century art’s most iconic sculptors, but also to the confidence, assurance, and virtuosic inspiration of an artist utterly at home in his own environs.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York