Visual Poetry: Mobiles and Stabiles
For Grades K–12
Table of Contents
The Cone, 1960
100 x 110 x 65 inches (254 x 279.4 x 165.1 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1961
Background Information for Educators
- Observe Alexander Calder’s sculpture The Cone
- Learn the meaning of the terms stabile and mobile
- Learn that mobiles move due to both balance and air currents
- Create a personal interpretation of The Cone through a creative poem
How does each of the following items use air?
Paper fans, motorized fans, clotheslines used to dry clothes
How does air make each of the following items move?
Sailboats, party favors that unroll when you blow into them, balloons that fly when you let go of them without tying them off, dandelion seeds that float through the air, kites, flags, paper airplanes, real airplanes
Have your students observe Alexander Calder’s sculpture The Cone in the Gallery. (For more information about visiting the Gallery, please see our Art’scool tour program page. If you arrange a guided tour for your students, please make sure you request to see The Cone.)
Explain that Alexander Calder called sculptures that didn’t move stabiles. Can your students identify the cones that make up the stabile part of this sculpture? These cones balance on each other. How are they similar to each other? How are they different?
Explain that Calder called moving sculptures mobiles. Can your students identify the mobile that is part of this sculpture? How many and what kind of shapes make up the mobile? What colors are these shapes?
Walk your students in a circle around The Cone two or three times, being very careful not to touch it. Then stop and watch very carefully. What happens? What do your students think is moving the mobile? (Have patience—the sculpture takes a minute or so to respond to the air currents you have created.) Look very carefully at the mobile. How many pieces of wire did Calder use? How did he attach the shapes to one another? Can your students explain how the mobile moves—both through balance and due to air currents?
Alexander Calder said, “To most people who look at a mobile, it’s no more than a series of flat objects that move. To a few, though, it may be poetry.”
Have your students think about the shapes, colors, balance, and movement they have experienced through the sculpture. What do all these things remind them of? Have them write a poem about what the sculpture reminds them of or makes them think about.
To learn more about Alexander Calder, visit the Calder Foundation website:
For more curriculum ideas, visit the Calder Foundation website’s Education page: http://calder.org/foundation/page/education.html
- New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
- New York State Learning Standards for Math, Science, and Technology 1, 3, 4
- New York State Learning Standards for Mathematical Practice 1, 2, 7
- College Career and Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading 1, 3, 5
- College Career and Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2, 4
- College Career and Readiness Anchor Standard for Writing 3 (plus 4, 5, and 6 if the resulting poem is improved or presented)
Audio for Younger Students
Audio for High School Students
Spotlight on the Collection
Artists in Depth: Arp, Miró, Calder
Presented by The Buffalo News
March 25, 2011–April 15, 2012