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Alexander Calder

American, 1898–1976

© 2011 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Cone, 1960

Painted metal
100 x 110 x 65 inches (254 x 279.4 x 165.1 cm)
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1961

The Cone is a combination of a non-moving sculpture called a stabile and a moving sculpture called a mobile. The stabile consists of a wide, hollow black cone and a narrower black cone placed over it, with triangular cuts made on one side of each. A very small cone sitting on the apex of the stabile supports a steel rod that balances a large red disc on one side and an array of wires and small white discs on the other.

After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, Calder attended art classes at The Art Students League of New York and traveled to Paris, France, where he created his elaborate Cirque Calder, 1926–31. In the early 1930s, he met many artists, including Piet Mondrian (Dutch, 1872–1944). During a visit to Mondrian’s studio in October 1930, Calder was impressed by the walls of the room, which were decorated with paper rectangles of primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), and suggested that "perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate."* Mondrian never pursued the idea, but Calder used it to invent his mobiles. After experimenting with motors and hand cranks, he discovered that he preferred the less-predictable bouncing and swaying caused by air currents.

The Albright-Knox’s Collection also includes Calder’s Conger, ca. 1950, a hanging mobile bequeathed, along with a large collection of modern art, by one of the Gallery’s great benefactors, A. Conger Goodyear.

* Quoted from: Alexander Calder and Jean Davidson, Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures (New York: Pantheon Books, 1966), p. 113.

Related Lesson Plan

Kinetic Art Mobiles (For Grades 3–12)


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