A taut web of wire connects hand–carved wooden forms that project from the wall. Calder made this work in 1943, the year the Museum hosted a major retrospective of his work. At the time, he was the youngest artist to receive this honor.
“There wasn’t much metal around during the war years, so I tried my hand at wood carving,” Calder said. “I have always liked wood carving, but these were now completely abstract shapes.” With its spare, evocative forms, this work underscores the persistent influence Surrealism wielded on his art. It also strikes a note of ambiguity and tension characteristic of much of Surrealist art: does the wire link these disparate elements, or is it a web that traps them? The title suggests a starry vision of night, but the wood elements possess a slightly figurative presence and appear locked irrevocably into place. In 1948 the Brazilian architect Henrique Mindlin wrote, “Calder’s work shows more than just the youthful inventive American spirit. Their ‘humor,’ their instability, their accidental qualities also betray the anxieties of our era. And the subtle elusive lyricism of his forms bespeaks our disillusionment with the obvious and explicit.”
Gallery label from Focus: Alexander Calder, 2007.