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. While the latent energy and dynamism of the mobiles remained of primary interest to Calder throughout his life, he also created important standing sculptures, which Jean Arp named "stabiles" to distinguish them from their ethereal kinetic counterparts. These works reject the weight and solidity of sculptural mass, yet displace space in a three-dimensional manner while remaining linear, open, planar, and suggestive of motion.
Alexander Calder was born in Pennsylvania in 1898 and attended the Stevens Institute of Technology and Art Students League. He died in New York City in 1976. His work is included in public and private collections worldwide, including Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Calder's public commissions are on view in cities throughout the world, and his work has been the subject of hundreds of museum exhibitions, including “Alexander Calder: 1898–1976,” National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1998, traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art); “Calder: Gravity and Grace,” Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (2003, traveled to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid); “The Surreal Calder,” Menil Collection, Houston (2005, traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Minneapolis Institute of Arts, through 2006); “Calder Jewelry,” Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach (2008, traveled to Philadelphia Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; San Diego Museum of Art; and Grand Rapids Art Museum); “Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926–1933,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2008, traveled to Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto); “Calder: Sculptor of Air,” Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (2009–10); “Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act,” Seattle Art Museum (2009–10); “Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2010, traveled to Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas; and Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC); “Calder’s Portraits: A New Language,” National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. (2011); and “Calder,” Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2013). “Calder Gallery II” is on view at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland through June 2014, and “Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic” is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until July 2014.