“A mobile is an abstract sculpture made chiefly out of sheet metal, steel rods, wire, and wood. Some or all of these elements move, propelled by electric motors, wind, water or by hand. When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprise.”
Alexander Calder’s invention of the mobile (a term that Marcel Duchamp coined to describe these new kinetic sculptures) resonated with early Conceptual and Constructivist art as well as the language of early abstract painting. Flat, abstract shapes made in steel, boldly painted in a restricted primary palette, black or white, hang in perfect balance from wires.
As Jean-Paul Sartre suggested, “They have too many possibilities and are too complex for the human mind, even their creator’s, to predict their combinations. Calder established a general destiny of motion for each mobile, then he leaves it on its own.” (Existentialist on Mobilist, ARTnews, Dec 1947).
Whether seen up close or at a distance, Alexander Calder’s art seems to possess both a touch of magic and witchcraft, never precisely still, never exactly the same.