Calder was famously inspired by a visit to the studio of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian in 1930. Following this seminal encounter, Calder’s practice shifted towards abstraction, adapting compositions and innovative actuations of space. During those years, the artist invented the first kinetic sculpture that he referred to as “mobile”, a term first coined by Marcel Duchamp. This terminology encompasses both “motive” and “motion”. His earliest experimentations included mechanical motors, which the artist quickly abandoned, devoting the aura of his works to the interplay with natural forces such as humidity, light, air currents and human interaction.
“It was a very exciting room. Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red. I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said: “No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.” This one visit gave me a shock that started things. Though I had heard the word “modern” before, I did not consciously know or feel the term “abstract.” So now, at thirty-two, I wanted to paint and work in the abstract. And for two weeks or so, I painted very modest abstractions. At the end of this, I reverted to plastic work which was still abstract.”