Whenever the American Alexander Calder (1898 -1976) is mentioned, we have to talk about his kinetic sculptures, his mobiles, giants like the one in front of the headquarters of the UNESCO, or to a smaller size. But regardless of their dimensions, they are true referents of a conceptual discovery of great value: to give movement to an apparently static art such as sculpture.
Gibr altar by Alexander Calder
The truth is that Calder devised many mobile sculptures and almost always based on abstract and geometric forms. This is also the case with this Gibr altar work from 1936 that is exhibited at the MoMA in New York. However, in this case, despite the abstract approach, there is a figurative element that can be easily identified. It is that base in the form of a cone with a shape that immediately recalls the Rock of Gibr altar from which you can contemplate the strait of the same name where the waters of the Atlantic and theMediterranean, and where the lands of Europe and Africa are separated.
El Peñón is a large rock, but here Calder poses it with a piece of tropical wood, lignum vitae whose roughness, heaviness and solidity are visually related to the geographical feature of the Strait of Gibr altar.
That heaviness is balanced and softened by the rest of the elements of the work. The firstit is a plank of walnut wood that seems to be inserted into the Rock. And above it there is another sphere made of wood, as well as two steel rods rising at whose high points you can see a small ball and a crescent, common elements in Calder's works and which are indebted to his past as an artist of theSurrealism.
Everything in this work seems to be contradictory. It is abstract but we identify an element. There is a slight vertical movement thanks to the steel rods, but this is offset by the gravity of the lignum vitae base piece. And on the other hand the treatment of each material varies. There are cases of a fine manual polishing and others are done with machines.
That balance of shapes, ideas and opposites is something thatCalderwas very interested in and that he played with on many occasions. In fact, he was talking about how he intended to represent a kind of universe. And here we can see that it includes elements like the stars, the earth, the moon, orbits, etc. Although one of the distinctive features of this author is that at the same time that this premise of the Universe may seem very transcendental, the truth is that there was always lightness and some humor in his creations.