In the present work, many of Calder’s core ideas and pivotal experiences emerge with virtuosic clarity, depicting a dynamic arrangement of orbs projecting into space; an immaculate illustration of the artist’s epiphanic experiences in his twenties that went beyond the mere momentary stops of the sun and the moon. The artist brings the unfathomable distances into stark alignment and simplicity. An image that recurs across Calder’s practice – particularly in other stabiles such as Gibraltar (1936) and Morning Star (1943), both in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York – the night sky’s illusive, mysterious quality serves the artist’s purpose well, giving form to the unknown yet familiar, the untouchable yet intimate. The iconic Existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote of him: “Calder does not suggest movement, he captures it...he imitates nothing, and I know no art less untruthful than his.” (Jean-Paul Sartre, “Existentialist on Mobilist,” ARTnews 46, December 1947, p. 22)
The migration of painterly shapes from canvas into physical space situated Calder at the forefront of the avant-garde in the middle of the twentieth century, through combining his longstanding and fastidious appreciation for the action of the circus with the infinite mysteries of nonobjective forms. Having studied mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, it is of little coincidence that his practice should evolve into such a groundbreaking fusion of automatic architecture and gestural freedom, capturing – with all the precision of a carefully hand-assembled machine – the ambitious, utopian moment of post-war America. But Calder remained indebted to the artists he befriended and exchanged ideas with during his time in Paris between 1926 and 1933. Echoing the momentous text by Albert Einstein, Calder’s Mobiles and Stabiles espouse a spatio-temporal coupling, uniting time and space in equilibrium, removing painting’s constituent parts from the atemporal canvas, and placing them in the universal continuum. As Einstein writes: “before the advent of the theory of relativity, time played a different and more independent role, as compared with the space coordinates. It is for this reason that we have been in the habit of treating time as an independent continuum.” (Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, New York, 2004, p. 47) It is this decisive transition from the formal rigidities of painting to the ‘real’ contingencies of sculpture that differentiated Calder from his École de Paris influences. The lyricism of Red Crescent encapsulates the grandeur of its subject and brings the energy of the cosmos into profound proximity. Fixed by the rectilinear framework, the spheres of the present work resonate with the color palette of one of Calder’s principal influences and allies, Piet Mondrian, with the sculptural elegance that has made him one of the most beloved American artists of the twentieth century.
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