The balancing fantasies of Alexander Calder

For many years I have marveled at the poised and colorful mobiles – sculptures whose essence relies on balance and movement – of the great American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976).

Perhaps this is why on a recent trip to the opening of the Winter Antiques Show in New York I stopped in my tracks when from the corner of my roving eye I saw THREE exquisite Calder mobiles side by side.  And so with the inquisitiveness and enthusiasm of a child, I entered the booth of Jonathan Boos, a well-known gallerist specializing in American art from 1850-1950.
Calder was born a tinkerer, collecting scraps of string, wire, glass, wood and other objects to make jewelry for his sisters.  He must have also loved the circus.  One can easily draw a parallel between it and his mobiles – high wire acts of balance and counterweights.  But it wasn’t until his trip to Paris in 1926 and his subsequent contact with the abstract artists Fernand Léger, Joan Miró and Piet Mondrian that his experiences congealed into the art he is so loved for today.
What was remarkable of the Calder mobiles offered by Boos  is not that they were beautiful and stupendously preserved. Or that their simple form and pure colors drew a strong familial resemblance between them.  It was the story behind them.  You see all three were given by Calder to the family who cared for his mother in her final years and have been together and inherited in the same family since. It is a testament to Boos’ conscientious dealing that he offered and sold these together and a sign of the buyer’s connoisseurship that will allow these 3 graces to continue living together in the foreseeable future.
image credit: Jonathan Boos.  (top) Alexander Calder, Untitled, c.1950, (bottom) Alexander Calder, Untitled c. 1950; Untitled, 1960; Untitled, c. 1954.
 
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