"Why must art be static?... The next step in sculpture is motion"
The artist, cited in: Howard Greenfeld, The Essential Alexander Calder
, New York 2003, p. 67.The Red Base
is a stunning example of Alexander Calder’s later works, a brilliantly conceived and executed celebration of the artist’s love of vibrant colour and graceful form. Resident in the same Swedish collection since 1973, Red Base’s
provenance reflects the popularity of Calder within Sweden during the 1960s and 1970s following the well-attended Movement in Art
Exhibition at the Moderna Museet in 1961. Indeed, Calder’s monumental Four Elements
can still be seen outside the museum today (Calder gifted a small model of the piece to the director of the Moderna Museet, Pontus Hultén, who carried it carefully back with him on the plane from New York to Stockholm; thankfully, it arrived intact).
Calder particularly adored the colour red, declaring that: “I love red so much that I almost want to paint everything red” (the artist, cited in: Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Calde
r, Cologne 2002, p. 81). The Red Base
is indeed dominated by the joyful brightness of the hue, which contrasts to brilliant effect with the black and yellow of the disks suspended at either side of the main body. The Red Base
perfectly distils the ideals behind Calder’s creation of his mobiles and standing mobiles, an area he was first inspired to explore in 1930 following a visit to Mondrian’s studio. Calder recalled that: "I was very moved by Mondrian’s studio, large, beautiful and irregular in shape as it was… I thought at the time how fine it would be if everything there moved…" (the artist, cited in: Howard Greenfeld, The Essential Alexander Calder
, New York 2003, p. 57). Calder refined this idea throughout the following decades, honing his creative techniques to the level of exquisite excellence evinced by the present work.
Delicately posed on a trio of points, The Red Base
seems primed to take flight with its ‘wings’ of wire quivering at either side of its apex, reminiscent in aspect of the classical figure of Nike of Samothrace. White petals dance, feather-like, at the tips of the wire wings, whilst a yellow and black disk hover at either side of the metal body as though anticipating a solar eclipse. The overall effect is one of extraordinary dynamism, the wire elements endlessly in motion in dramatic contrast to the solidity of the eponymous base itself. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote movingly of the excitement engendered by Calder’s mobiles: “A ‘mobile,’ one might say is a little private celebration, an object defined by its movement and having no other existence… They are, that is all; they are absolutes. There is more of the unpredictable about them than in any other human creation. No human brain, not even their creator’s, could possibly foresee all the complex combinations of which they are capable” (Jean-Paul Sartre,'Les Mobiles des Calder', Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Galerie Louis Carré, Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles,Constellations,
1946). In its unpredictability of movement and inherent kinetic properties, The Red Base
is a gloriously exuberant and extraordinarily graceful work by a sculptor truly revelling in the technical possibilities of his complex medium.