Art That Moves

Alexander Calder
Alexander Calder

July 22, 1899
Alexander Calder was Born

What did painter and sculptor Alexander Calder mean when he said “I think best in wire?” Born on July 22, 1899, in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, Calder revolutionized sculpture with his unique wire structures and mobiles–objects hanging from wires in midair. Before Calder, no one had created this type of art. The child of a well-known painter and sculptor, he started his career as a mechanical engineer and worked in that field for several years. In 1923, he began taking drawing lessons and eventually became a commercial artist covering prize fights and the circus for the National Police Gazette. In 1926 he moved to Paris, and in the winter of 1931-32, Calder made his first mobile.

Alexander Calder made mobiles that were motor-driven and some that moved with a breeze. These were called kinetic (moving) sculptures. Looking at Calder’s art, you see he created objects in biomorphic or abstract shapes that remind you of natural things such as animals, plants, or parts of people.

Calder’s work is very colorful, and even in his paintings, he tried to create the illusion of the canvas moving. Calder’s art appeals to the imagination. What do you see when you look at these works of art?

You can probably see Calder’s work at your local modern art museum. In the meantime, try creating your own wire sculpture or mobile.