WC Art Encyclopedia Alexander Calder

A mobile is a type of kinetic sculpture. It is made of rods and weighted objects, which each hang from a single string, and which balance each other while being free to rotate.

It was the Dadaist and Surrealist Marcel Duchamp who first suggested the term mobile applied to sculpture in 1931, when describing the early work of Alexander Calder. At that time it was still synonymous with the term “kinetic art” and described any sculptural work in which motion was a defining property. Later it came to refer more specifically to Calder’s free-moving creations.

Calder was inspired by the abstract work of Piet Mondrian, Joan Miro and Sophie Taeuber-Arp. He went ahead and invented an art that took advantage of the principle of equilibrium. Typically brightly colored, abstractly shaped objects made from sheet metal are connected by lengths of wire, thus making the individual elements capable of moving without ever coming into direct contact. The trick is to balance everything.

While Alexander Calder is the only one whose work is defined by the term ‘mobile’, other artists experimented with the same principle, e.g. Man Ray. The work is born out of the idea that life is motion and if art is to be a representation of life, it needs to capture this motion somehow. Calder believed that what it took was to lift the figures and scenery off the page and prove undeniably that art is not rigid.

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