Calder made his first standing mobiles in the 1930s and continued to develop the format over the next decade, experimenting with different types of bases and armatures to support carefully weighted elements that extend into space. As the artist described in 1951, “There is the idea of an object floating—not supported—the use of a very long thread, or a long arm in cantilever as a means of support seems to best approximate this freedom from the earth.”
Moths II vividly captures this sense of flight by balancing two large organic forms on one side of a bent metal stand with a mirrored succession of diminishing shapes on the other. Resonating with the biomorphic motifs found in the work of Calder’s Surrealist friends Joan Miró and Jean Arp, the crisp, hand-cut aluminum elements flutter and move with gentle streams of air. In 1962, when asked about his influences, the artist answered, “Nature. I haven’t really touched machinery except for a few elementary mechanisms like levers and balances. You see nature and then you try to emulate it. . . . My whole theory about art is the disparity that exists between form, masses, and movement.” The dramatic shift in scale between the pairs of thin metal elements across the seven-foot span of Moths II suggests a progression through time and space that abstracts the laws of gravity and flight, freeing sculpture to inhabit and interact with its environment.
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