Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder
Otto’s Mobile, 1952
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Alexander Calder
Otto’s Mobile, 1952

Painted steel, aluminium, 533.4 x 243.8 cm
Photo: Museo Guggenheim Bilbao/Erika Barahona

Calder’s kinetic sculptures number amongst the earliest manifestations of an art that consciously departed from the traditional notion of the art work as a static object and integrated the ideas of motion and change as aesthetic factors. Calder drew inspiration for his ‘mobiles’ – a term first coined by Marcel Duchamp – from the abstract paintings of Joan Miró and Piet Mondrian. From the late 1920s onwards, he strove to translate these into a three-dimensional language of form. The present work, called Otto’s mobile after its first owner, bears witness to this artistic relationship: Calder’s perfectly balanced, free-hanging wire construction with painted sections of metal in manifold forms contains striking echoes of Miró’s compositions of black and coloured lines and planes.

Alexander Calder

1898, Philadelphia – 1976, New York

Fascinated by the world of the circus, in the late 1920s Calder began making small figures out of wire, wood and fabric. The impressions he gained from the planetarium in Paris and his affiliation in 1930 with the Abstraction-Création group prompted him to produce abstract, kinetic sculptures using metal forms, thin rods, thread and wire, which Duchamp was later to call “mobiles” and which subsequently became increasingly complex and ingenious. As a counterpoint to the ostensible lightness of these mobiles, he later developed static, structurally weighty and sometimes even monumental constructions made of sheet steel, which Jean Arp accordingly dubbed “stabiles”.

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