Private Collection, Providence (acquired from the above in 1973)
Sale: Ivey-Selkirk, St Louis, The Twentieth Century – Design & Fine Art, 8 November 2003, Lot 426
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
It is not solely Calder’s physical works, but also his career and artistic persona that are defined by dualities. American born, the artist matured in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, where he was received by both his abstract and Surrealist contemporaries as one of their own, becoming the only artist to exhibit with both groups. He returned to the United States during the Second World War, and consequently emerged as a major artist of international sophistication and significance. In 1943 Calder became the youngest artist to be given a full-scale retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a show that received such acclaim that it was extended into 1944. Two years later, Calder took his first transatlantic flight to Paris to assist with the preparations for his legendary exhibition of stabiles and mobiles at Galerie Louis Carré. In a catalogue essay for the exhibition, the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre marvelously distilled the unique complexity of Calder’s mobiles: “His mobiles signify nothing, refer to nothing but themselves: they are, that is all; they are absolutes. Chance, ‘the devil’s share,’ is perhaps more important in them than in any other of man’s creations. They have too many possibilities and are too complex for the human mind, even their creator’s, to predict their combinations. Calder establishes a general destiny of motion for each mobile, then he leaves it on its own. It is the time of day, the sun, the station between the servility of a statue and the independence of nature. Each of its evolutions is the inspiration of a split-second. One sees the artist’s main theme, but the mobile embroiders it with a thousand variations. It is a little swing tune, as unique as ephemeral as the sky or the morning. If you have missed it, you have missed it forever” (Jean-Paul Sartre, 'Existentialist on Mobilist', Art News, No. 46, December 1947, pp. 22-23).
Both artist and artisan, Calder made manifest his incomparable genius by exercising highly technical precision whilst enacting a seamless choreography of individual elements that appear inherent, even inevitable. Harnessing, in the artist’s own words, “the system of the universe” as “the ideal source of form,” Calder created an incomparable corpus of standing and hanging mobiles that were a means of approximating the freedom, mastery and joy of earthly existence (Alexander Calder, quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, 1998, p. 59). The power of Two Black Discs and Six Others is grounded in a fundamental understanding of this earthly existence, infused with both the science and mysticism of the cosmos. The sensation of fluctuating stasis and suspension redolent in the present work utterly crystalises the remarkable innovation of this most revolutionary twentieth-century sculptor.
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