While the French title of this work gestures to the significance of the extended periods Calder spent in France throughout his career, the artist made 23 Spreading Leaves in the large studio he built in 1938 on his property in Roxbury, Connecticut. Reminiscent of the lush pastoral setting that surrounded his work space, the cascading network of thin metal elements, affixed with hooks to arching wires, twists and rustles by chance like the branches of a tree.
As Calder once wrote: “There are environments that appear to remain fixed whilst there are small occurrences that take place at great speed across them. . . . As truly serious art must follow the greater laws, and not only appearances, I try to put all the elements in motion in my mobile sculptures. It is a matter of harmonizing these movements, thus arriving at a new possibility of beauty.” Whether set in motion by a gentle breeze or by manual manipulation, 23 Spreading Leaves exemplifies how the artist distilled and reinvented the movements of his natural environs in his sculpture.
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