Black Spray
Date 1956
Medium Hanging mobile with painted sheet metal and rods
Dimensions 350.5 x 251.5 cm
Inventory ID UID 102-85
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The work of Alexander Calder occupies a decisive place in the sculptural discourse adopted since the early 20th century, which proposed the reformulating of traditional assumptions. Contributing to the change in aesthetic and ideological principles, Calder sought to capture the rhythms of nature through new materials which made it possible to claim a greater and more expressive dynamism. His mobiles, a term used by Marcel Duchamp in a text published in the catalogue Collection of the Société Anonyme (Yale University Art Gallery, 1950), are concrete statements of this. Small free-flowing and arbitrary arabesques, these mobiles, whose intrinsically implied movement depends on the wind and interaction with other forces dictated by multiple random possibilities, are based on Oriental cultural principles and Taoist aesthetics and seek to re-engage the observer via the senses. The work Black Spray (1956), which is also a mobile, demonstrates this quest. Defying gravity, Black Spray confronts our senses with the idea of metamorphosis that reality contains. The thin pieces of monochromatic metal and the shadows they project onto the surrounding space manifest the abstract dance of transitoriness that governs life. The metal leaves of Black Spray, fairytale declarations that relate to Calder's lyrical universe, are suggestive of celebratory choreographies, moving from one side to the other at random and demonstrating that nothing is fixed and unchanging, not even the relationship we establish with them (which varies with the strength of the breeze that dictates their movement). Thus the mobiles remind us of the law of variation to which life is condemned. They are symbols of nature, ‘of that profligate Nature which squanders pollen while unloosing a flight of a thousand butterflies; of that inscrutable Nature which refuses to reveal to us whether it is a blind succession of causes and effects, or the timid, hesitant, groping development of an idea’ (Jean-Paul Sartre, 1946). AMB