The central component of chance is taking one thing out of context and placing it into another context, demonstrating how meaning is fixed to a site and how meaning is unfixed when location is changed.

Acrobats c. 1927

c. 1927

Small Feathers 1931

Small Feathers

excerpts from research readings:

Calder's early artworks were nurtured by many sources: Marcel Duchamp, who suggested the name "mobile" for the kinetic art form that Calder so famously employed; Piet Mondrian, who introduced Calder to pure abstraction; and Joan Miró, who introduced Calder to Surrealism.

Calder’s kinetic sculptures are regarded as being amongst the earliest manifestations of an art that consciously departed from the traditional notion of the art work as a static object and integrated the ideas of gesture and immateriality as aesthetic factors.

The larger myth of the mobile is that it represents the triumph of kinetic sculpture, when in reality the mobile was as different as one could imagine from the original vision: passive rather than active; not at all mechanical; and random rather than directed in its motion. Indeed, the mobile drew upon none of the incredible technical resources of the twentieth century, the appropriation of which had of course been the principal inspiration of the original kineticists.

It cannot be claimed that Calder was pursuing any radically new, original course in sculpture at this time. Open-form sculpture was under constant discussion during these years; with the collaboration of Gonzalez, Picasso was also working with wire. But, whereas he was soldering and using wire as a stiff, sticklike element, Calder, who has always preferred mechanical construc tions, was creating in the manner that has remained characteristic for him. He has always found it easier to think with his hands, to think in terms of specific mate rials. He bends and twists wire to outline planes and volume and follow features as if wire were a fluid line drawn in space. The flexibility of these wire figures shows that from the first Calder displayed a propensity for mov ing form. 

In 1920 Naum Gabo had written the Realistic Manifesto in which he announced the Constructivist break with the plastic tradition that had dominated Western art for "1000 years." Among his pronouncements are several that seem appropriate to Calder: "The realization of our perceptions of the world in the forms of space and time is the only aim of our pic torial and plastic art.... we construct our work as the universe constructs its own, as the engineer constructs his bridges, as the mathematician his formula of the orbits.... everything has its own essential image — all [are] entire worlds with their own rhythms, their own orbits." 


A UNIVERSE. (1934) "The orbits are all circular arcs or circles. The supports have been painted to disappear against a white background to leave nothing but the moving elements, their forms and colors, and their orbits, speeds and accelerations The aesthetic value of these objects cannot be arrived at by reasoning. Familiarization is necessary." (Statement, 1934)


Calder's work has been widely accepted— particularly his kinetic constructions—despite a general resistance to non-objective art. Calder has said, "When you see a thing move you know what it will do," which possibly ac counts for the popularity of his mobiles. But it is also possible that since the movement gives the sculpture a life of its own, one responds to it as one responds to another living thing—directly, bypassing the difficulties of its con tent as a highly sophisticated work of art, taking delight in its humor. The stabiles have also been accepted, al though with difficulty at times, perhaps because the spirit of play is very strong in everything that Calder does, but more probably because their strongly organic presence creates yet another direct, physical experience and response. Fernand Leger once called Calder a realist; Calder's reply is: "If you can't imagine things, you can't make them, and anything you imagine is real."


Dreams Money Can Buy is a 1947 anthology film made by artist/author Hans Richter and collaborators like Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst and others. There is music from John Cage, Paul Bowles and a number by scandalous bisexual torch singer Libby Holman and popular African-American singer Josh White (who was later caught up in the “Red Scare” and black-listed) on the original soundtrack titled “The Girl with the Pre-Fabricated Heart” that plays during Leger’s segment. 

Richter’s goal was to bring the avant-garde out of the museum and into the movie house and the results, predictably, are rather unique. Certainly Dreams Money Can Buy must have been a stunner at the time and it still is. With no spoken dialogue, the plot, such that there is one, revolves around a man who rents a room where he can peer into the mirror and see people’s dreams. He sets up shop and we meet his clients and see their interior lives in the dream sequences. As you can imagine with the above list of collaborators, the film is a dizzying treat of audio-visual creation.


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