Big Crinkly

Big Crinkly, 1969
Alexander Calder (1898­–1976)

Alexander Calder is best known for his hanging, mobile sculptures. His interest in movement was manifested in his early figurative wire sculptures, which have a playful, mechanical sensibility akin to wind-up toys.

Some of his subsequent abstract sculptures are operated with cranks and pulleys, but his real breakthrough came with his invention of hanging sculpture, which he called “mobiles.” Calder's mobiles consist of abstract shapes connected by wires, and they move freely with the air currents in a room.

Calder initially studied mechanical engineering, but soon changed course and became a professional artist like his parents and grandfather before him. Born in the United States, Calder traveled frequently in the late 1920s to Paris, where he befriended members of the French avant-garde.

Big Crinkly, painted in black and white and the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue, is a study in contrasts: in it the viewer can perceive both organic and industrial forms, such as a zigzag tail and large, visible bolts at the center of the sculpture. When activated by the wind, the mobile moves in its natural setting, adding a dynamic quality to the work.

Alexander Calder’s Big Crinkly, in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, is on view in the de Young’s sculpture garden during SFMOMA’s expansion and renovation (scheduled for completion in early 2016).

Alexander Calder (1898­–1976)
Big Crinkly, 1969
Painted steel
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Rita B. Schreiber in loving memory of her husband, Taft Schreiber 

Listen to Emma Acker, Assistant Curator of American Art, provide her perspective on Alexander Calder’s Big Crinkly.