This work on the main staircase of MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, was commissioned in 1939 by the institution itself to the American artist Alexander Calder. And it was here that he created one of his first large-scale mobiles. A type of dynamic sculpture from which he was to make many other works in the following decades, such as the one we can see outside the UNESCO headquarters in the French capital, Paris.
Calder's lobster, trap and fishtail
But this mobile from the New York museum is smaller, and in fact it is still a hanging mobile, in whose suspension a series of swings, turns and tilts are generated, always in a subtle balance and always on the verge of falling apart to have to start over.
It is the air currents generated in the environment that affect this balance. Even the movement of visitors can affect the stability and stillness of a piece, which will move a little with any current and thus drag the rest. Although, it must be said that all these movements are never sudden. This is a very subtle dynamism, at least physically, as it is perhaps multiplied from a psychological point of view in the viewers.
The theme of the mobile is set in the sea, and even not only because of the title or certain formal similarities or ofcolor, also because of the idea it conveys of a kind of “submerged and weightless universe”.
The effects of the work, its mobility and even its success were a real surprise to Calder, and this encouraged him to continue experimenting on this creative path. Improving the concept of a hanging mobile, where a series of elements follow one another, as if falling, from top to bottom. And although the shape of these elements could vary, the truth is that this Lobster, pot and fishtail also set a formal precedent for many that came later, where the elements that remind to amoebas, as well as a few deformed triangles. Although, as we have said, these mobiles were gaining larger dimensions and were also made of weather-resistant materials, since he did not lack this type of commissions throughout his successful career. And although he made some more traditional sculptures in the sense of his statism, the truth is that this author has gone down in the history of theavant-gardes of the 20th centuryas the creator of themobile sculptures.