About Mobile Sculptures

by Aaron Charles
Mobile sculptures are more than what a baby sees in his crib.

Mobile sculptures are more than what a baby sees in his crib.

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Mobiles cannot be limited to the spinning toys that entertain reclining infants in their cribs. The book "Making Creative Mobiles" by Timothy Rose shows that mobile sculptures are a fairly new art form that surfaced in the 1920s when American artist Alexander Calder invented this sculptural style

Historical Context

Calder partly received his sculptural know-how from his education at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. The seed of his work began as assemblages of wires attached to wooden and metal pieces of different shapes. He then traveled to Paris, where he entered a maelstrom of creative energy and personality, receiving influence from artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian. Calder suggested to Mondrian, an abstract painter, that he suspend cutout shapes attached to cords from the surface of his paintings to give them a livelier look. Mondrian disagreed, so Calder did it himself, eventually removing the background artwork so that only the wires, strings and pieces remained. The term "mobile sculpture" evidently comes from a discussion Calder had with conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp.


Calder's inspiration came from nature, as can be seen in his words quoted by author and mobile sculpture artist Timothy Rose in "Making Creative Mobiles." Calder said, "Each element [of the sculpture] can move, shift, or sway back and forth in a changing relation to each of the other elements in this universe. Thus, they reveal not only isolated moments but a physical law of variation among the events of life." Rose further emphasizes the movement and pattern that we encounter in daily life, whether commercially in advertisements or naturally in the way a river winds or a bicycle wheel spins. Tapping into these movements, colors and shapes inspired what would later become mobile sculptures.


Rose strongly promotes the fact that mobile sculptures, because they're a relatively new form of artistic expression, still have much potential for future manifestations. He suggests combining what you already know with something that's seemingly uninteresting. Also try understanding science as it's found in advertising, video and photos that display the microscopic as well as the astronomical. In short, the secret to forming new mobile artwork is to expose yourself to as much color, culture and knowledge as possible, allow that data to settle in your creative brain, and then take a leap of creative faith by expressing yourself in mobile, sculptural form.

Modern Examples

Tom Berwitz is a mobile sculpture artist who shows examples of his work on the website "Cornermark" (cornermark.com). There, he demonstrates how his mobile metalwork, designed with parts that move with the breeze and wind, can have a home in either rural or urban settings. Timothy Rose, too, displays his work via the site "Mobile Sculpture" (mobilesculpture.com). He shows a more delicate version of mobile sculpture, with thinner pieces of metal and wires attached to colorful shapes, much akin to the work produced by the one who started the mobile sculpture movement, Alexander Calder.


  • "Making Creative Mobiles"; Timothy Rose; 2007
  • "Contemplating Music: Essence"; Ruth Katz, Carl Dahlhaus; 1992

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images