Alexander Calder, the artist who redefined sculpture


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Too bad Calder is dead, I’d love to see him make a mobile out of five or six Toyotas.

Sarcasm aside, I really like his work. It’s kind of soothing just sitting in a chair and watching a mobile.
If you like Calder, you also might like George Rickey:


Calder has long been one of my favorite artists. Last time I was in Europe, I saw a ton of his mobiles in museums, and I can never resist taking a big breath of air and exhaling towards the mobiles. To see them move so elegantly, and be so balanced, is just incredible.

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Remarkably, a number of his mobiles are on display in the school of art at the University of Arkansas.

Hmmm. Apparently there were originally eight.

When I was a little kid I remember seeing one of his mobiles in one of AA’s terminals at DFW Airport (at the time I was too young to know who Calder was). Apparently the mobile was first installed at Love Field and then AA moved it when DFW opened. I’m not sure what happened to that mobile.

One of the things that I remember from an exhibition of his work I attended a while back was the still-working homemade electric toaster he had made for his home.

This stood out to me because I had recently been given a brand-new, professionally-constructed toaster that broke after maybe two months, and I was livid that the company which manufactured it couldn’t make a goddamn toaster that worked as well as the one some artist made in his spare time 70 years previously.


One of his pieces turned up on Antiques Roadshow recently. Or at least, I saw it recently… it could have been an old rerun.

You can imagine the shock on that appraisal. The piece had just been hanging on their screened-in porch for decades, if I recall. It was rusty and a little sun-bleached, but their authorities were certain of its provenance.

Ah, here it is:

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Our “art ambassador” program (parent-led in-class sessions) did a unit on Calder’s wire drawings. Great fun, and the kids turned out some cool pieces. Very cartoony.

There are a large number of Calder pieces in several (free) museums on the National Mall in DC: The National Gallery, the Sculpture Garden, and the Hirshhorn. They are worth checking out if you find yourself in on The Mall. There’s a monster Calder in the atrium of the National Gallery East Wing: It is pretty spectacular.

(in case haven’t seen his circus stuff!):

I was a huge fan of Calder when I was a kid, but not of the RAV4 which is a Japanese plot to destroy the climate of the entire world.

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Love Calder. But his foundation doesn’t look too kindly on the type of creative activity I often see praised on Boing Boing, namely appropriation, remixing, and creative interventions. Check out what happened when an artist applied some magnets to Calder’s La Grande Vitesse during ArtPrize:

We have a giant Calder in front of the High Museum in Atlanta. It’s pretty cool:

Mark, to find the balance point on the wire just use the old rest-wire-on-both-hands-then-slide-hands-slowly-together trick.

We have a Calder in our bathroom (reproduction, of course, but licensed). It sounds disrespectful, but as a result it is the most-studied piece of art in our house.

Mark, there is a rarely seen 1950 short film by Herbert Matter called “Works of Calder” that shows him at work:

I make mobiles for a living. If anyone needs tips or has questions on how to make them, just email me:

Okay, this is a weird coincidence. I didn’t see this post yesterday (nor a few posts before it), but for some reason I was thinking about Calder enough that I had to look him up on Wikipedia.

For some reason I didn’t realize that he invented mobiles (or that Marcel Duchamp named them); I thought he just evolved them from a distraction for infants to an art form.

Crashproof, mobile made in 1751: - but obviously Calder created a whole new universe based on an idea!

Makers gonna make.

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