The Surrealist Object
Wooden Bottle with hairs

Alexander Calder, Wooden Bottle with Hairs

The Surrealist Object, or the assemblage of found materials intended to create a new form of "disagreeable" beauty, is another genre in which Calder demonstrated tremendous ingenuity and from which he ultimately derived the idea for the mobile.

As described by André Breton, "[Surrealist] objects are particularly enviable in their sheer power of evocation, overwhelming us with the conviction that they constitute the repositories, in art, of that miraculous charm, which we long to recapture."

Calder's approach to creating "Objects" recalled his use of everyday materials in his homemade toys of the 1910s. His contribution to the 1936 Surrealist exhibition in Paris was likely a frame with suspended mechanized parts that could be cranked and set in motion, much like Black Frame. Salvador Dali exhibited a Lobster Telephone, and René Magritte This is a piece of Cheese, both of which are included earlier in this exhibition. Marcel Duchamp submitted his 1914 readymade Bottlerack. From the droll and figurative to the preposterous and ephemeral, Surrealist sculpture was decidedly flexible in its scope and materials.

Calder equated the shifting relationships of forms in his mobiles with the natural orbits of bodies in space. This theme is often associated with Cône d'ébène, considered among the earliest examples of an object assuming the form of a mobile. Sculpted from ebony, this object is defined by a sphere, cone and a mysterious shape that somewhat resembles the head and neck of a bird.