Artworks
Big Red
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ajardini's picture

Sr. Editor

What does the fact his favorite color is red say about American sculptor Alexander Calder?

It's the color of love and passion, in romantic roses and lusty lipsticks, blood and anger, fire and spice.  Even his name, "Calder," gives off a sense of heat, like the Spanish caliente or the Italian caldo, both meaning hot, hot, hot.

Maybe that's why I'm so fond of this particular sculpture Big Red, despite it bringing to mind that disgusting cinnamon gum, or worse, those freaks who use flavored toothpaste (you know who you are). It has a fervor missing from his other mobiles, which make me calm and complacent, like a baby gazing up from its crib.

Perhaps this electric quality comes from the artist's devotion to the provocative hue. He said once, "I love red so much, I almost want to paint everything red." And though once his career took off most of Calder's pieces were done in a factory, this precious ruby was made by hand.  

This particular shade of red was inspired by the primary colors in the work of his friend Piet Mondrian, who celebrated the vivid red by allowing it to exist on the canvas unaided by shading or figurative form. You've surely seen his boxy compositions (like the infamous Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue) before, whether in a museum or plastered on Katy Perry on a billboard above the freeway -- the recognizable design's become super popular in fashion and even on other everyday products. 

Leaving the culture of Earth, Calder cites a fascination with the cosmos as another influence for the spinning sculpture.  And it's easy to see the shapes as red rocks floating weightless in space, as the wire holding them together is so thin it's almost invisible.  The metal used to make them is feather light and they lazily float around, urged on by the slightest current of air, their orbit started by just the movement of someone walking by.