About the Artist
Alexander Calder was born into a family of artists in 1898. Calder was surrounded with art growing up, as his father and grandfather were sculptors and his mother was a portrait painter. Interested in art from a very young age, Calder created his first sculpture when he was four years old. Originally from Pennsylvania, Calder began his career with a degree in mechanical engineering. He then worked as an illustrator while pursing art at night as a student at the Art Students League of New York.
In 1926, Calder went to Paris to experience the center of the modern art world. During his time in Paris, Calder met artists that helped inspire and shape his career. After meeting Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), Calder became influenced by abstract work, the use of primary colors, and geometric shapes. He began creating sculptures composed of colorful shapes that moved with a motor. These sculptures evolved into mobiles and stabiles. Calder’s mobiles capture the changing relationships among various elements and, in essence, are always-changing compositions. The artist created delicate mobiles that hung suspended, with different shapes often dangling and balancing from wires. He also created non-moving stationary sculptures called stabiles during this time.
In addition to sculpting, Calder developed an interest in jewelry-making, which began with the making of his own wedding rings. Calder is also known for creating toys, including a miniature circus composed of wire, string, rubber, and cloth. Entitled Cirque Calder, 1926–31, the miniature circus captures a childhood interest of Calder’s.
About the Art
The Cone, 1960, embodies a combination of mobile and stabile sculptures. The stabile consists of a wide, hollow black cone. The cone becomes narrower towards the top, with a very small cone sitting on the apex of the sculpture. The small cone supports a steel rod that balances a large red disk on one side and an array of wires and small white discs on the other. These smaller wires and shapes cascade and connect with one another, allowing for a balanced distribution of weight.
The black, coned stabile serves as the base of the sculpture, not moving, but anchoring the whole piece. Attached to the black cone, the mobile—complete with dangling wires and shapes—has the ability to move or pivot with air currents traveling around the sculpture. Through size, weight, and color, the smaller shapes are evenly balanced against the large red disk.