Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Le Disque bas

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Le Disque bas
signed with artist's monogram 'CA' (on the base)
painted sheet metal and wire
19 x 29 x 29 in. (48.2 x 73.6 x 73.6 cm.)
Executed in 1962.
Galerie Maeght, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1964
A. Calder, J. Johnson Sweeney and D. Lelong, Calder, l'artiste et l'oeuvre, Paris, 1971, no. 103 (illustrated).
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Calder, April-May 1969, p. 172, no. 177 (illustrated).
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Calder, May-July 1975, no. 72.
Kunsthaus Zurich, Austellung: Sammlung Bechtler, August-October 1982, pp. 41 and 172 (illustrated in color).


This work is registered is the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A00810.

"Each element can move, shift or sway back and forth in a changing relation to each other and independently of other elements in the universe. Thus they reveal not only isolated moments, but a physical law of variation among the events of life. Not extractions, but abstractions: Abstractions which remsemble no living thing, except in their manner of reacting" (A Calder, "Comment réaliser l'art?," Abstraction, Création, Art Non-Figuratif, no. 1, 1932, p. 6)
It was nature, not machinery, that inspired Alexander Calder to wholly create a new art form giving motion to sculpture in his mobiles and stabiles that forever changed the landscape of the three dimensional art form. "The basis of everything for me is the universe," Calder told Katharine Kuh in a 1962 interview the year the magnificent Le Disque bas was created. (Katharine Kuh, "Alexander Calder" in The Artist's Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists, New York: Harper & Row, 1962). Grounded by two simple, conjoined red triangles and balanced by a single black circle, the white shapes, resembling delicate palm fronds, appear as if they are on the verge of gently soaring upward into the sky. Le Disque bas is an exquisite example of what Mason Riddle referred to as the "unbearable lightness" of Calder's works. (Mason Riddle, "The Unbearable Lightness of Sculpture," Public Art Review, Fall/Winter 2004).

In all its delicacy this breathtakingly beautiful sculpture ensnares the viewer illustrating why the great Marcel Duchamp stated that Calder's works were "pure joie de vivre," and described his art as "the sublimation of a tree in the wind." (Marcel Duchamp, "Sculptor, Painter, Illustrator," in Calder: Gravity and Grace). Le Disque bas also reveals the artist's approach to color that is both cautious and bold. In the 1962 interview with Kuh, Calder spoke of the role of color in his work saying that it is secondary. "I want things to be differentiated," he said. Black and white are first-then red is next-and then I get sort of vague. It's really for differentiation, but I love red so much that I almost want to paint everything red." This sculpture is just that - black and white stabilized by a bright red fulcrum - showcasing Calder's ability to so sparingly use color to gorgeous effect.

Here, too, is the harmony between technique and expression with which Calder's art are magically infused. One envisions the artist's touch, bending the wire just so, molding the subtle variations of the white shapes that are neither curvy nor straight-edged, but both. In a New York Times review of a 1964 Guggenheim show of Calder's work, John Canady wrote, "This healthy balance between workman and creator is comparable to the balance between body and spirit adored by the Greeks. Calder is the soundest contemporary expression of the Greek tradition, with philosophical ponderings on the subject of the machine as our century's standard of ideal beauty as opposed to the Greek ideal of the body."

In 1962, Calder was in his prime, working on both large monumental works for outdoor and public spaces and his masterful intimate stabiles that are grounded forms of his mobiles and possess the same myriad possibilities of movement as their hanging siblings. In his eloquent commentary about Calder's works, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: "A 'mobile' is in this way like the sea, and is equally enchanting: forever re-beginning, forever new. No use throwing it a passing glance, you must live with it and be fascinated by it. Then and only then will you feel the beauty of its pure and changing forms, at once so free and so disciplined." With its endless capacity to change and mesmerize the viewer, Le Disque bas is a stunning manifestation of Sartre's sentiment. (Jean-Paul Sartre, "The Mobiles of Calder" in Calder: Gravity and Grace).

Alexander Calder. Photograph by Hans Namuth. Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona 1991 Hans Namuth Estate
Artwork: (c) 2013 Calder Foundation, New York/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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