Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976),
Numbered One to Seven
painted sheet metal and wire, 82 x 62 in., 208.3 x 157.5 cm
Gift of the Joslyn Women's Association, 1978.265
Alexander Calder, America's first abstract artist of international renown, is forever associated with his invention of the mobile. Born into a Philadelphian family of sculptors, he studied first as a mechanical engineer and then as a painter in the style of the Ashcan School. In 1926, Calder left for Paris, then Europe's cultural capital. There he attracted the attention of the avant-garde through his amusing performances with a partly mechanized miniature circus of wire and cloth figures. By 1930 he had developed freely moving sculptures of arcs and spheres. Calder's mobiles were squarely within the spirit of the times, from their engagement with machine technology to their use of abstraction as a universal language of creative truth. Linked to Dada and Surrealism by playfulness and chance arrangement, his sculpture responded to Constructivism by energizing art's elements in the viewer's space.
Made up of delicately balanced, colorful sheet-metal shapes, Calder's kinetic sculptures look weightless and effortless, gliding randomly into new configurations on the motion of air currents. Numbered One to Seven is an arrangement of colorful biomorphic shapes suspended from thin wires hovering in midair. Characteristic of Calder's work, the forms call to mind planets and galaxies, plant life, and atomic particles, as seven large, suspended leaflike shapes vertically balance a smaller constellation of colorful circles.