Kinetic art is versatile and ever changing. Whether powered by motors or made up of shifting series of images, kinetic art is a celebration of movement. Alexander Calder, father of the mobile, used delicate wire to suspend abstract metal shapes. Calder’s mobiles float gently in the air, transforming in subtle ways.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1898 to a family of artists, Calder showed little inclination towards art, but loved gadgets. In 1919, he graduated from the Institute of Technology Hoboken with a degree in mechanical engineering. Art beckoned to him and he went to drawing lessons at night. This led to a job with National Police Gazette illustrating prizefights and the circus.
Shortly after moving to Paris, he found his niche. Alexander Calder worked as a sculptor and, in his spare time, made amusing animals out of wood and wire. These toy animals became the basis of his miniature circus piece. Parisian artists and literary figures would come to special performances of these mechanical figures. The reception of his miniature circus lead to the creation of his famous wire sculptures, such as Spring and Romulus and Remus. As he explored using unconventional metals, Calder constructed massive public pieces of art. They are still located in city plazas across Europe.
Dynamism was the focus of the rest of Alexander Calder’s career. Upon viewing Calder’s newest work in 1931, Dada artist Marcel Duchamp christened it a “mobile”. These works of strange metal shapes painted in solid, bold colors suspended from above are unlike any other. As the shapes waltz through the air, the composition takes different forms. Dynamic and innovative, these are fascinating works to watch.
While mobiles were the hallmark of his career, Calder was fascinated by wedding movement and art in many other diverse ways. In 1937, the Spanish pavilion of the Paris World’s Fair featured such a work by Calder. He was asked to craft something to celebrate the world’s oldest and largest mercury mine in Almaden, Spain. Alexander Calder created a mercury fountain with a stream of mercury flowing down to a swiveling rod. It is a surreal and unique piece that is still available to view at Fundacio Joan Miro in Barcelona.
Calder’s contributions did much to advance Abstract art. Mobiles are part of the modern lexicon and are seen in various shapes and forms.
Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original works by Alexander Calder, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.