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Alexander Calder
Zigzag Sun and Crags

1972

$195,000

About

A painting by Alexander Calder. "Zigzag Sun and Crags" is a Post-War abstract painting, gouache and ink on paper in bold colors of reds, blacks, and blues by artist Alexander Calder. The artwork is signed lower right, "Calder 72" and has been given the Calder Foundation authentication number A07055. Although we know him today best for his sculptures, Calder started his artistic career as an abstract painter, always preferring gouache as a medium for his painted work. Sometimes known as opaque watercolor, gouache is a water-soluble paint which handles much like watercolor for the artist. Watercolor and gouache both allow the artist to paint quickly, but both are also extremely unforgiving mediums as they dry quickly and are difficult to rework. However, unlike watercolor, which has a translucent appearance, gouache contains white pigment, rendering the color opaque. Calder valued gouache for exactly these reasons, it dried quickly like a watercolor but rendered bold colors that he sought. In the 1920s, Calder began to experiment with sculpture. Bending and twisting metal in order to “draw” in three-dimensional space. By the 1940s and 50s, Calder had become so popular as a sculpture that he largely left painting behind, concentrating on creating the kinetic sculptural vocabulary of that we know him for. Toward the end of his life, however, once he had secured fame and renown as a sculpture, Calder returned to the more intimate and less physically involved process of gouache painting in earnest. As he returned to gouache painting with a lifetime of experience as a sculptor, Calder began to transcribe the three-dimensional vocabulary of sculptural forms he had developed onto the two-dimensional surface of the paper. Like his sculpture, the gouache works echoes Mondrian’s bright palette of primary colors and the whimsical nature of Miro’s work, both artist’s that Calder admired greatly. Provenance: Perls Galleries, New York Private Collection, Florida, 1974

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About the Artist

Alexander Calder

The American sculptor Alexander Calder is known as the father of the mobile, a moving artwork composed of delicately balanced sculptural forms suspended from the ceiling. Because his parents, both artists themselves, did not want him to suffer the hardships of trying to make a living in art, they encouraged the young Calder to study mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. He worked a number of jobs, including as a hydraulic engineer and draftsman for the New York Edison Company, before deciding to pursue an artistic career. He never abandoned his engineering background, however, applying his understanding of gears and moving parts in all his artworks, from mechanical toys like the Cirque Calder (1931) to his free-standing abstract sculptures, called stabiles.In 1926, Calder moved to Paris and established a studio in the Montparnasse quarter. He began creating the many parts of his famous miniature circus from found materials, such as wire, string, cloth, rubber and cork. Designed to be transportable, Cirque grew to fill five suitcases over the years. Always interested in putting forms in motion, Calder also pioneered a new art form called wire sculptures, which he described as “drawings in space.” Like his famous mobiles, the wire sculptures were suspended so that they turned with any movement of the air, presenting different forms when viewed from different angles.In the 1950s, Calder returned to his roots in mechanical engineering, creating monumental abstract sculptures that verged on the architectural. He worked from loose gestural drawings like this preparatory sketch for his Man Stabile, from 1966. Throughout his career, he also worked as a set designer for the theater, as well as an illustrator and printmaker, producing vibrant, whimsical drawings for books and journals, such as this stunning lithograph of an elephant and two cats.
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