Alexander Calder
Quattro Pendulati, 1943

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Quattro Pendulati
Artist name
Alexander Calder
Date created
metal, wood, paint, and mechanical elements
36 3/4 in. × 25 1/2 in. × 12 in. (93.35 cm × 64.77 cm × 30.48 cm)
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Photo credit
Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
© Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
Artwork status
On view on floor 3 as part of Alexander Calder: Dissonant Harmony

Audio Stories

How is this work like painting in motion?

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SFX: Swirling sound moves from left to right



How do you demonstrate a sequence of time in a work of art?


SFX: Another whirling sound, something that implies motion abstractly, moving in the opposite direction



Artists have puzzled over that question for centuries—how do you show something moving through space or time?



Calder decided, he went around the question and presented actual motion instead of trying to describe motion.



That’s Sandy Rower, who has spent years studying and caring for his grandfather’s art.


SFX: Sounds of someone working on a motor, tinkering


Sandy told us that Calder used some tricks he learned in engineering school—


SFX: Motor starts up



Like adding a motor. The one here is set on a timer, and every so often, it makes those four colored disks move.


SFX: Four dongs in different tones, to match the disks intersperse throughout this narration.



Wait here if you like. It could be an hour. It could be a minute. Calder loved that element of surprise.



Calder had this idea of making paintings that were in motion — that would flash form and color. And then from that idea sprung what we know now as the mobiles.



Like the ones you may see hanging in this gallery.



The term “mobile” was coined by Marcel Duchamp.



That’s Marcel Duchamp—the guy who put a porcelain urinal on its side and called it art.



He had been visiting Calder in his studio in 1932 and saw a series of works that were in motion. And Calder said: “What should I call it?” And Duchamp said, “mobile” and Calder thought this was great ’cause it was a pun – in French it refers both to motion but also motive. And both Calder and Duchamp were relentless punsters. So they were having fun with it at the same time as being smart about it.

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