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Alexander Calder

/Works and biography

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Mobile, ca. 1934
Glass, china, iron wire, and thread, approximately 167 x 117 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 139
© 2014 Calder Foundation, New York / SIAE, Rome, all rights reserved. CALDER ® is a registered trademark of Calder Foundation, NY.


While the breadth of Calder's production makes it impossible to characterize his work according to any particular style or technique, he is best known as the inventor of the mobile. Calder's first mobiles, kinetic works propelled only by air circulating its balanced components, date from the early 1930s, when he lived in Paris. It was Marcel Duchamp who devised the term for these suspended sculptures; as Calder recalled, ''I asked him what sort of a name I could give these things and he at once produced 'mobile.' In addition to something that moves, in French it also means motive.''

Calder, a fastidious craftsman, cut, bent, punctured, and twisted his materials entirely by hand, the manual emphasis contributing to the sculptures' evocation of natural form. Shape, size, colour, space, and movement combine and recombine in shifting, balanced relationships that provide a visual equivalent to the harmonious but unpredictable activity of nature. In Untitled (ca. 1934), simple cut glass shapes and china are suspended from rods. Responding to air currents, the mobile's profile shifts spontaneously and unpredictably, different elements travelling in different directions at varying speeds.

credits: Hangar Design Group