Panels, Frames, First Stabiles
Calder's wish to create paintings in movement was virtually realized in a group of wall-mounted sculptures of 1932 to 1936 in which various forms are placed within a frame or before a panel. Some of these works are mechanized; when set in motion, each element performs a different type of movement (for example Black Frame). In others, the forms suspended on wires are moved by air currents.
In the second half of the 1930s, while creating further variations on the mobile format, Calder began working on another type of sculpture, immobile and freestanding, made of sheets of metal connected by bolts. Whale and Big Bird, both of 1937, are early examples of these "stabiles" -- as such works had been dubbed by the sculptor Jean Arp. Their bold curves recall the shapes of the mobile objects in some of the earlier panels and frames. Because they appear different from all sides, the stabiles invite the viewer to walk around them, thus implying, like the mobiles, the ideas of movement and perception in time.
Throughout his career Calder demonstrated a great versatility in his
use of materials. In 1935-1936 he produced a number of works made
largely of carved wood. Though most of these were stablies,
some include movable parts and many incorporate biomorphic
shapes, showing affinities with the surrealist works of
Jean Arp and Joan Miró.
Copyright © 2008 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC