Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mobiles & Stabiles

Alexander Calder was an American sculptor that  developed an innovative method of bending, twisting and sculpting wire to create three-dimensional "drawings in space", much like David Smith. Calder was strongly influenced by the work of Piet Mondrian and is said to have stated, "I would like to make Mondrians that move," upon seeing Mondrian's works. It was after this encounter that Calder's works shifted from naturalistic representation into abstract composition. The very essence of Calder's work can be summed up as a dialogue between movement and immobility; he explored these two separate realities in his mobiles and stabiles, respectively. Calder's mobile's, a word coined by Marcel Duchamp, were kinetic sculptures designed using an ingenious system of weights and counterbalances, that moved freely when suspended, powered only by slight air currents. Calder regarding the creation of his mobiles in the later years of his career:

"I used to begin with fairly complete drawings, but now I start by cutting out a lot of shapes....Some I keep because they're pleasing or dynamic... Then I arrange them on a table, and arrange them, with wires between the pieces... Finally I cut calculating for balance this time... I begin at the small ends, then balance in progression until I think I've found the point of support. This is crucial, as there is only one such point and it must be right if the object is to hang or pivot freely. The size and angle of the shapes and how to use them is a matter of taste and what you have in mind.
To most people who look at a mobile, it's no more than a series of flat objects that move. To a few, though, it may be poetry."
 Conversely, his stabiles were stationary metallic sculptures. In the later years of his career Calder devoted himself to creating outdoor monumental sculptures, mostly stabiles designed for specific locations, that continue to grace public plazas in cities worldwide. Throughout his lifetime Calder not only revolutionized the art of sculpture by making movement one of it's main components, but he also created innovative works by exploring the aesthetic possibilities of nontraditional materials. Calder's mobiles and stabiles alike challenged the prevailing notion of sculpture as a collection of masses and volumes by proposing a new definition based on open space and transparency -- a major contribution to the development of abstract art. Both types of sculpture, although firmly rooted in the ground, give off a feeling of lightness due to their predominantly rhythmic lines and the beautiful finesse of their angular outlines.


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