born: 22.7.1898 in Lawton (Pennesylvania),
died: Pennsylvania 1976 NewYork
American sculptor Alexander Calder holds a significant place in twentieth-century art. Calder initially studied engineering before enrolling in painting and drawing courses at the Art Students' League in New York, which he attended from 1923 to 1926. Later that year, at the age of 28, he went to Paris, where he remained until 1934. Then Calder returned to the United States. While in Paris Calder made friends with Hans Arp, Fernand Leger, and Joan Miró, and did his first, wonderfully humorous wire sculptures and now-famous cycle of miniatures (1917). In 1931 he joined the Abstraction-Creation group, whose members included Robert Delauna , Jean Helion, Arp, Antoine Pevsner, and Piet Mondrian. That same year saw Calder's first abstract metal constructions, which were later dubbed Mobiles and Stabiles. His greatest source of inspiration at the time was Mondrian, whom Calder had met the previous year. Mondrian not only encouraged him to work in an abstract mode, but to make kinetic sculptures along the lines of his, Mondrian's, own Neo-Plasticism. The result, as Calder put it, was "Mondrians that moved" - the term Mobile was suggested by Marcel Duchamp. Suspended on a wire, the sculptures hover in space. Their motions, on the one hand, are irregular and uncontrollable, at the mercy of drafts or physical impetus. On the other, they rely on a subtly calculated system of balance and leverage. The possibility of making slight changes in weight distribution, altering the shape of the elements, and the number and arrangement of the arms, placed a well-nigh infinite number of configurations at the artist's disposal. In Thirteen Spines (1940), thirteen rods in three groups of different length are suspended stepwise, in parallel one beneath the next, such that the sheet-metal form at the bottom keeps them in equilibrium. It is an extremely delicate equilibrium, however, because the rods can swing upwards or downwards, to the left or right. The sculpture has no front or back, being equally effective from every vantage point. It is continually mutable and never reaches stasis. Also, its design exhibits a very effective contrast between lightness at the top and heaviness at the bottom - thin, black, graphic lines set against a closed black shape. In between, a transition is established by the two, smaller, dark surfaces, which appear to float freely in space.