Purchase, with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and by exchange
Rights and reproductions
© Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Alexander Calder’s mobiles occupy space not through volumetric form but through multiple planar shapes that branch out into space. For his mature, wind-driven mobiles, Calder sought the random movement induced by air currents, but controlled it through carefully calibrated systems of weights and balances. Large cut-metal mobiles such as Big Red spin slowly through 360 degrees, while subsidiary systems within the composition form their own independent kinetic arrangements. In the 1950s, Calder began to work with commercial fabricators—a practice that allowed him to greatly expand the scale of his sculpture, as exemplified by Big Red’s 9 1/2-foot span. The shapes of his sheet metal cutouts also became more standardized, and he often used primary colors from the commercially available palette, such as the one that gives Big Red its name.