Towers and Gongs
Two series begun in 1951, "towers" and "gongs," introduce new developments in Calder's art. The architectonic towers are related to the constellations of the previous decade, but include a greater variety of elements within their scaffold-like structure (see wall to far right). With their little wire spheres, mobiles, carved wooden forms, and even a painting (Tower with Painting), the towers seem to offer a survey of Calder's art in miniature.
Calder, who had first experimented with sound-making sculpture in the early 1930s, liked the sound some of his mobiles made when the metal plates collided. In the gongs (for example, Triple Gong), he emphasized this aural dimension by including small metallic hammers that strike the plates at random when the mobiles move.
From 1953 until his death in 1976, Calder devoted most of his energy to monumental sculpture, which is represented in this section of the exhibition by several maquettes and a video showing works in situ. Most of these sculptures are stabiles designed for a specific location.
The small metal maquette -- the first step in the production of a monumental sculpture -- was already for Calder a sculpture in its own right: "Even in aluminum and very small, at the model stage, the object must please whether it is intended to be made in large dimensions, or not." The earliest large-scale sculptures, such as Teodelapio, were constructed directly from the maquette. After 1965, an intermediate maquette, usually about one-fifth the final size, was often fabricated to test the wind resistance and to refine the structure.
The final sculpture was executed by skilled ironworkers under Calder's supervision. The large versions of Southern Cross (maquette) and of Tom's (maquette) are installed on the lawn outside the East Building.
Other large-scale works are spread throughout the public spaces in the East Building.
Copyright © 2008 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC