“A mobile is a very modest thing.”
Alexander “Sandy” Calder was born in Lawton, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1898. Both of his parents were artist, and Calder enjoyed a close relationship with them and his sister Peggy. His parents encouraged his creativity, but even though Clader exhbited artistic talent as a youth, he enrolled in Stevens Institute of Technology after high school; he graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1919.
After holding a few odd jobs, Calder began studying at the Art Students League (New York) in 1923. The following year, he took a position as a freelance artist for the National Police Gazette, which sent him to the sketch at the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus for two weeks in 1925; this experience forged Calder’s strong insterest in circus and aniamal themes, and eventually led to the creation of “Le Cirque Calder.” Designing his own show, Calcer assembled a group of circus figures, fashioned with wire and leather amongst other material, and added Victrola music and himself as the ringmaster. Calder performed his circus in both Paris and New York, where it received high acclaim. While performing, Calder also attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumiére (Paris) in 1926, and held an exhibition of his paintings at the Artists Gallery (New York) that same year. In 1928, he enjoyed his first solo exhibition of these wire animals, which was held at the Weyhe Gallery (New York). Calder enjoyed working in wire, because he felt it allowed him to use “three-dimensional lines” in order to create “drawings in space.”
Calder socialized with a prominent array of artists and intellectuals while living in Paris during the latter half of the 1920’s. This array included Joan Miró, with whom Calder shared a life-long friendship. In 1930, Calder visited the studio of Piet Mondrian, and was highly influenced by the strong primary colors and geometric patterns he saw in Mondrian’s workl this resulted in a greater abstraction in Calder’s own sculptures. The following year, Calder began introducing moving parts in his work, thereby dividing it into two groups: “stabiles” (a term coined by Miró) were stationary or motionless formations, while “mobiles” (a term coined by Marcel Duchamp) were sculptures that incorporated movement. Calder was especially interested in mobiles, as they allowed him to forge a connection between a sculpture and its surrounding enviornment (the air, light, etc.) The sculpture would interact with its enviornment, resulting in effects such as motion or shadow.
Although he was already internationall known, through his circus and having had his first solo show in Paris at Galerie Billet in 1929, Calder’s mobiles expanded his notoriety. Calder spent a large majority of the thirties creating his signature mobiles, while also developing a family with Louisa James whom he married in 1931. In 1943, he enjoyed a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), while also spending a large part of the fifties traveling. During the fifties, he also won the grade prize for sculpture at the 1952 Venice Biennale. From 1964-5 the the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York) in 1976. Calder passed away that same year on November 11, 1976.