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  • "When everything goes right a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises."
    — Alexander Calder

    Ever-shifting and perennially transforming, Dot + Loop exemplifies the motion, dynamism, and ephemerality that composed Alexander Calder’s revolutionary contributions to modernist sculpture. In his radical redefinition of the medium, he interrogated preconceived notions of sculpture, turning its conventionally weighty forms into delicately suspended biomorphic structures that respond to the gentlest change in air currents or the viewer’s activity around it, striking a tension between holistic balance and unpredictability.

     

    Composed of monochromatic piercing black elements, Dot + Loop evokes the act that Calder’s peer Julio González deemed “drawing in space”—its flat, ethereal forms redolent of the geometric shapes that compose its title. Held in the same family collection for over six decades, the work’s arrival on the market represents the rare offering of a Calder mobile that has not changed hands since its original acquisition in the late 1950s.

     

    The present lot illustrated on the front cover of Alexander Calder &Fischli/Weiss, 2016. Artwork © 2020 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    The present lot illustrated on the front cover of Alexander Calder & Fischli/Weiss, 2016. Artwork © 2020 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Calder’s Vision of the Cosmos

     

    Born to two artists in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, Calder at first decided to pursue a different path and studied mechanical engineering. After working as a draughtsman and hydraulic engineer for New York Edison, he enrolled at the Art Students League in New York. He later moved to Paris, studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, where he befriended Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, and Piet Mondrian—whose eclectically-hung studio sparked Calder’s interest in abstraction and the potential to entirely redefine art. In 1931, just one year after visiting Mondrian’s studio, the artist created his first mobile—an at-the-time avant-garde approached that has now firmly been incorporated into the lexicon of art history. 

    "Just as one can compose colors, or forms, so one can compose motions."
    — Alexander Calder

    Calder’s beginnings in math and science can be traced throughout his oeuvre and especially in his kinetic works such as Dot + Loop, intricate sculptures that are built upon precise balancing forces and are propelled by the air around them. Indeed, when Albert Einstein attended a Calder show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he was fascinated by the artist’s revolutionary 1934 sculpture A Universe. After shooing away other visitors and viewing the masterpiece for over 40 minutes, he later stated, “I wish I had thought of that.”i 

     

    [left] Yves Klein, Relief Planétaire “Région de Grenoble" (RP 10), 1961. Artwork © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris [right] Lucio Fontana, Spatial Concept, The End of God, 1963. Private Collection, Photo credit © DeA Picture Library / Art Resource, NY, Artwork © 2020 Fondation Lucio Fontana/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    [left] Yves Klein, Relief Planétaire “Région de Grenoble" (RP 10), 1961. Artwork © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris [right] Lucio Fontana, Spatial Concept, The End of God, 1963. Private Collection, Photo credit © DeA Picture Library / Art Resource, NY, Artwork © 2020 Fondation Lucio Fontana/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Formidable figures in two disciplines that may appear entirely disparate, Calder and Einstein similarly explored abstract conceptualizations of the cosmos during the 20th century—and this vision can certainly be discerned in Dot + Loop, which weightlessly hovers around the viewer evocative of galactic debris in the universe. “The lyricism of [the artist’s] works,” according to art critic Jed Perl, “has everything to do with Calder’s genius for turning to art’s advantage an investigation of the nature of the world generally believed to be the purview of physics, a way of seeing inaugurated not by artists but by the primary texts of Euclid and Isaac Newton. Calder, although not a scientist in any traditional sense, was moved by a desire, common among early 20th century thinkers, to see the poetry of everyday life as shaped by heretofore invisible principles and laws.”ii

     

    A Career-Long Partnership

     

    During the creation of Dot + Loop, Calder established a life-long friendship and working relationship with Klaus and Dolly Perls, the dealers behind the prestigious Perls Galleries in New York. In February 1956, Dot + Loop was included in the artist’s first exhibition, Calder, at the gallery—which would go on to host a slew of group and solo shows during the rest of his career. One of the most important partnerships of his career, it helped solidify his reputation as one of the revolutionary artists of the 20th century.

     

    Alexander Calder in his studio. Artwork © 2020 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    Alexander Calder in his studio. Artwork © 2020 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    iAlbert Einstein, quoted in Stephanie Barron, “Time, Space, and Moving Forms: Alexander Calder—Beyond the Beautiful,” in Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013, p. 10.

     iiJed Perl, “Sensibility and Science,” in Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013, p. 41. 

    • Provenance

      Perls Galleries, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above circa late 1950s)
      Thence by descent to the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Perls Galleries, Calder, February 6 – March 10, 1956

    • Literature

      Alexander Calder & Fischli/Weiss, exh. cat., Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, 2016 (illustrated on the front cover; titled as The Loop and the Dot)

    • Artist Biography

      Alexander Calder

      American • 1898 - 1976

      Alexander Calder worked as an abstract sculptor and has been commonly referred to as the creator of the mobile. He employed industrious materials of wire and metal and transformed them into delicate geometric shapes that respond to the wind or float in air. Born into a family of sculptors, Calder created art from childhood and moved to Paris in 1926, where he became a pioneer of the international avant-garde. In addition to his mobiles, Calder produced an array of public constructions worldwide as well as drawings and paintings that feature the same brand of abstraction. Calder was born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania.

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Property from an Important New England Private Collection

23

Dot + Loop

incised with the artist’s monogram and date “CA 56” on the largest element
sheet metal, wire and paint
36 1/2 x 47 1/2 x 29 in. (92.7 x 120.7 x 73.7 cm)
Executed in 1956, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07389.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for $2,329,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278

[email protected] 


 

20th c. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 7 December 2020