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Polychrome from One to Eight
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À propos de l'objet

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)\n\nPolychrome from One to Eight\n\nincised with the artist’s monogram and dated 'CA 62' (on the white element); incised with the inscription 'towards center' (on the black element); incised with the numbers '1-8' (respectively on each element)\n\nhanging mobile—sheet metal, rod, wire and paint\n\n37 ½ x 169 ½ x 38 in. (95.3 x 430.5 x 96.5 cm.)\n\nExecuted in 1962.
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GB
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notes

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07341.

One of the 20th century’s most innovative artists, Alexander Calder is unmatched in his ability to translate simple shapes, common materials and base colors into elegant arabesques of kinetic sculpture. Realized at a particularly active period in his career, Polychrome from One to Eight is a striking example of Calder’s iconic mobiles. It was included in the 1964 Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, which keenly illustrated the artist’s dual influences from the burgeoning art scene of America and the experimental methods being tested in France in the mid-20th century. Though seemingly basic in their construction, Calder’s sculptures engage with balance and movement while bringing the Modernist ideals of painting into three dimensions. “Just as one can compose colors, or forms,” the artist noted, “so one can compose motions.” (A. Calder, Modern Painting and Sculpture, 1937). Reacting to the subtlest disturbances in the air, works like Polychrome from One to Eight are ever-changing and interact constantly with the audience and their surroundings.

Over fourteen feet in length when all of the elements are aligned, Polychrome from One to Eight stretches gracefully outward and is a perfect example of Calder’s attention to form in space. Hanging from delicate loops on precisely balanced pieces of wire, two groups of four forms extend from the central axis. On one side, a single red, rounded triangle gives way to a piece reminiscent of a yellow gingko leaf. Two red circles branch from this and cap the gentle quartet. On the other side, a striking black quadrilateral hovers and gives way to a white triangle and a pair of organic forms that are painted in yellow and red. The artist’s exacting use of color in the present work is typical of his output, and furthers his ideas about the use of color not as a means of decoration or a representation of something in the real world, but rather as a means of highlighting the differing elements within the piece so that they could more aptly form a cohesive whole. Speaking to this concept, the artist intoned, “I want things to be differentiated. Black and white are first—then red is next—and then I get sort of vague. It’s really just for differentiation, but I love red so much that I almost want to paint everything red. I often wish that I’d been a fauve in 1905” (Ibid., p. 89). Though his works were sometimes monochrome, like the monumental stabile Teodelapio that he completed in the city of Spoleto, Italy, the same year as Polychrome from One to Eight, the importance of separating each form within the ever-moving mobiles is visible in Calder’s use of red, black, white and yellow.

Even though he was born in Philadelphia and received a degree in mechanical engineering, Calder had a lifelong love affair with Europe and its artistic sensibilities. He initially enrolled in the Art Students League in New York in 1923, and was encouraged to pursue oil painting by his teacher, John Sloan. Soon after, he began to work as a freelance artist, specializing in sketching animals, sports and the circus, all of which foreshadowed his ability to capture movement, whether on the canvas or in space. Beginning his soon-to-be-frequent sojourns across the Atlantic in 1926, the artist continued to travel throughout his life, and even set up a studio in Saché, France by 1964, just two years after completing Polychrome from One to Eight. While abroad, Calder interacted with such luminaries of the European avant-garde as Paul Klee, Joan Miró, Piet Mondrian and Marcel Duchamp. It was the latter that coined the term ‘mobiles’ to refer to Calder’s kinetic works. Duchamp claimed, “The art of Calder is the sublimation of a tree in the wind” (M. Duchamp, entry on Calder for the Société Anonyme catalogue (1950), reprinted in M. Duchamp, Duchamp du Signe, Paris 1975, p. 196). Bridging the world of André Breton, Duchamp and the other visionaries he met abroad with the East Coast artist movements thriving in the United States, Calder existed in both realms, yet was sharply individual in his methods, materials and {oeuvre}. Initially favored in Europe for his performative works involving moveable maquettes and handmade figures like Circus (1926-31), a visit to Mondrian’s studio in 1930 changed the way Calder viewed abstraction and set him on a collision course with nonobjective sculpture. He noted, looking back to that fateful visit, “I was very much moved by Mondrian’s studio, large, beautiful and irregular in shape as it was… I thought at the time how fine it would be if everything there moved…” (A. Calder, quoted in H. Greenfeld, The Essential Alexander Calder, New York, 2003, p. 57). By infusing line and form with lively movements and interactive elements, Calder was able to push abstraction into three and four dimensions.

Encouraged by the Modernists and Surrealists he met in France, Calder pushed toward biomorphic forms and a sense of movement that foregrounded chance interactions. Each element of Polychrome from One to Eight rotates independent of the whole, and therefore the entire piece has myriad views and near-infinite configurations. This fact entranced the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, when he wrote: “[T]he object is always midway between the servility of the statue and the independence of natural events. Each of its twists and turns is an inspiration of the moment. In it you can discern the theme composed by its maker, but the mobile weaves a thousand variations on it. It is a little hot-jazz tune, unique and ephemeral, like the sky, like the morning. If you missed it, it is lost forever” (J. Sartre, “Les Mobiles des Calder,” from Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations, exh. cat., Paris, Galerie Louis Carré, 1946, 9–19, English translation by Chris Turner, from The Aftermath of War: Jean-Paul Sartre, Calcutta, Seagull, 2008). Each piece is at the mercy of the elements, yet the artist revelled in this fluidity and made it his life’s work to create poetic structures rife with the motion of painting, the form of sculpture and the movement of the natural world.

title

Polychrome from One to Eight

creator

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

exhibited

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Sculpture and Drawings, December 1962-February 1963, p. 39, no. 9.

New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim, Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, November 1964-January 1965, no. 328.

Art Gallery of Toronto, Mobiles and Stabiles by Calder, The Man Who Made Sculpture Move, May 1965, n.p., no. 328.

New York, Marlborough Gallery, Masters of Modern and Contemporary Sculpture, November-December 1984, n.p., no. 12 (illustrated in color).

New York, Marlborough Gallery, Modern Sculpture, September-November 1992, p. 75, no. 37 (illustrated in color).

lot_number

47 B

provenance

Perls Galleries, New York

Arnold H. Maremont, Chicago, 1962

Perls Galleries, New York

Barbara Poe Levee, Los Angeles, 1968

Private collection, Switzerland

Marlborough Galerie AG, Zurich

Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2001


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  • Voir tous les objets dans la catégorie Autres
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*Merci de noter que le prix n'est pas recalculé à la valeur actuelle, mais se rapporte au prix final réel au moment où l'objet a été vendu.

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