When people hear the name Alexander Calder, they probably think of his mobiles. However, he also worked with other media.

Calder’s father and grandfather were both sculptors, mainly large pieces for public spaces. It’s said that his mobiles extended the idea of sculpture. He added movement and time to an art form that involved shape and color.

It’s pretty easy to understand movement as you watch one of his pieces drift on passing air currents, but time?

Yes, time. You can never view the same Calder mobile twice because the orientation of the parts is unlikely ever to be precisely the same. The role that time plays is demonstrated in the mobile at the top of this post. Every so often, but rarely, conditions result in the little hammer striking the gong.

Notice another thing: lighting is a key element. The interaction of a mobile and its shadow is an important part of the experience.

After beginning to work on mobiles, Calder grew interested in creating large, non-moving pieces. A clever friend proposed, “If your other works are mobiles, these must be stabiles.” The name stuck. The huge orange piece called The Eagle in Seattle’s Sculpture Garden is a stabile.

Before he invented mobiles, Calder worked in other media: painting, static sculpture, and drawing.

This painting was inspired by an experience Calder had during a sea voyage when he saw both moon and sun in the sky at the same time. You can see the moon at the upper left, the sun, waves, and perhaps a sail.
Calder was fascinated by circuses and manufactured his own miniature circus, complete with ringmaster, acrobats, animals, etc. He packed everything into a set of suitcases and put on performances for friends.

Then there are his static sculptures, although they are not like something Rodin would have done at all!

This bent-wire bull reminds me of a Picasso drawing transformed into three-dimensional form.
A not-so-scary alligator made of a single sheet of folded and painted metal.
Who doesn’t love a rat? The dangly bits at the front are apparently teeth. Decide for yourself what the dangling thing at the rear is.

On to the mobiles. Notice the part shadow plays in the viewing experience.

A fish made of found objects.
This flower is perhaps more obvious in the shadow than in the piece itself. Notice that the ring is not attached to the pointy piece. It’s balanced around it.
This piece was inspired by Calder’s friend Piet Mondrian.

Calder was a workhorse. He arose, worked in his studio, lunched, and worked some more. Not a hermit, he danced, drank, and enjoyed his artist friends in the evenings.