This hanging mobile features twenty three metal leaves connected by more than a dozen wire arches. The kinetic sculpture hangs down more than five feet, and spans more than nine-and-a-half feet at its widest. The metal leaves are thin, slightly curved wedges, resembling tortilla chips or bent guitar picks, and have been painted black, as have the connecting wires. The wires vary in gauge, with the thicker ones used as main supports connecting one arch to another, while the thinner wires cascade downward, each with a single leaf on its tip. In this way, the pattern of the mobile resembles that of a tree with thicker limbs supporting bowing branches, which in turn support multiple twigs.
Alexander Calder
23 feuilles à l’écart (23 Spreading Leaves), 1945

Artwork Info

Artwork title
23 feuilles à l’écart (23 Spreading Leaves)
Artist name
Alexander Calder
Date created
metal and paint
aluminum and steel
64 in. x 116 1/2 in. x 99 in. (162.56 cm x 295.91 cm x 251.46 cm)
Collection SFMOMA
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
Artwork Status
On view on floor 3 as part of Elemental Calder.

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.

Other Works by Alexander Calder

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