ALEXANDER CALDER Number 1 to 5 1954
umber 1 to 5 dates from 1954, a period in which Calder became internationally known and successful. Two years before, he had been awarded the Grand Prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale, which was followed by a series of public commissions, including one in 1954 for the famous ceiling of the Universitad Central in Caracas (Carlos Raúl Villanueva, architect) and one in 1957 for the mobile in Idelwald Airport (now known as J.F. Kennedy Airport). Number 1 to 5 reflects the artist’s interest in mobiles with sweeping grace. And though his mobiles had always been asymmetrical, the suspended elements of this one appear more geometric. This balance is reinforced by his use of color as he conceptualized it in 1951: ”I have chiefly limited myself to the use of black and white as being the disparate colors. Red is the color most opposed to both of these – and then, finally, the other primaries. The secondary colors and intermediate shades serve only to confuse and muddle the distinctness and clarity.” (A. Calder, “What Abstract Art Means to Me”, Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, 18, no. 3, Spring 1951, pp. 8-9).
The poetic structure of Number 1 to 5, at once both exuberant and balanced, is based on the juxtaposition of the largest curved elements to the smallest triangles and trapezoids, which turn around several axes, as if the cosmos and its lightness had been miniaturized. ”Since the beginning of my work in abstract art, and even though it was not obvious at that time, I felt that there was no better model for me to work from than the Universe... Spheres of different sizes, densities, colors and volumes, floating in space, surrounded by vivid clouds and tides, currents of air, viscosities and fragrances – in their utmost variety and disparity.” (A. Calder quoted in Exposicion Calder, exhibition catalogue, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, 1955). This is an emblematic work that perfectly demonstrates Calder’s desire to translate space into a symbol of energy and vital force. ––
Factsheet on page 20