Mobile (sculpture)

Mobile (sculpture)
A simple modern mobile in the style of Alexander Calder

A mobile is a type of kinetic sculpture constructed to take advantage of the principle of equilibrium. It consists of a number of rods, from which weighted objects or further rods hang. The objects hanging from the rods balance each other, so that the rods remain more or less horizontal. Each rod hangs from only one string, which gives it freedom to rotate about the string. Mobiles are popular in the nursery, where they hang over cribs to give infants something to entertain them and give them external visual stimulation. Mobiles have inspired many composers, including Morton Feldman and Earle Brown who were inspired by Alexander Calder's mobiles to create mobile-like indeterminate pieces. Frank Zappa also claimed that his compositions were modelled on Calder mobiles.

Modern mobile art by Julie Frith

The meaning of the term "mobile" as applied to sculpture has evolved since it was first suggested by Marcel Duchamp in 1931 to describe the early, mechanized creations of Alexander Calder.[1] At this point, "mobile" was synonymous with the term "kinetic art", describing sculptural works in which motion is a defining property. While motor or crank-driven moving sculptures may have initially prompted it, the word "mobile" later came to refer more specifically to Calder’s free-moving creations. Influenced by the abstract work of Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Calder in many respects invented an art form where objects (typically brightly coloured, abstract shapes fashioned from sheet metal) are connected by wire much like a balance scale. By the sequential attachment of additional objects, the final creation consists of many balanced parts joined by lengths of wire whose individual elements are capable of moving independently or as a whole when prompted by air movement or direct contact. Thus, "mobile" has become a more well-defined term referring to the many such hanging constructs Calder produced in a prolific manner between the 1930s and his death in 1976. A succinct definition of the term "mobile" in a visual art sense could be a type of kinetic sculpture in which an ensemble of balanced parts capable of motion are hung freely in space but which never come into contact with each other.

Mobile by Stephen H Kawai


Similar works

4 Useless Machines by Bruno Munari

Calder's work is the only one defined by the term "mobile", however two other notable artists worked on a similar concept. Man Ray experimented with this idea around 1920 and Bruno Munari created his "Useless Machines" in 1933, made in cardboard and playful colors. [2]

See also

  • Whippletree, a device used to balance force among draught horses.
  • Wind chime


  1. ^ Tomkins, Calvin: Duchamp: A Biography, pages 294. Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0-8050-5789-7
  2. ^ Munari, Bruno: Air Made Visible, 288 pages, Lars Müller Publishers, 2001. ISBN 978-3907044896

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • mobile sculpture — …   Useful english dictionary

  • mobile — [ mɔbil ] adj. et n. m. • 1301 « bien meuble »; lat. mobilis « qui se meut », pour movibilis, de movere « mouvoir » I ♦ Adj. (1377) 1 ♦ Qui peut être mû, dont on peut changer la place ou la position. Pièce mobile d une machine, d un dispositif… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Mobile (art) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Mobile. Sculpture en Berkenthin, Allemagne Un mobile est un ensemble d éléments construits en matériaux légers et disposés de telle façon qu ils prennent des disp …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mobile — For information on using Wikipedia on mobile devices, see Help:Mobile device. Mobile often refers to: Mobile phone, a portable communications device Mobile, Alabama, a U.S. port city Mobile (sculpture), a hanging artwork (or toy) Mobility, the… …   Wikipedia

  • Mobile — adj. & n. adj. 1 movable; not fixed; free or able to move or flow easily. 2 (of the face etc.) readily changing its expression. 3 (of a shop, library, etc.) accommodated in a vehicle so as to serve various places. 4 (of a person) able to change… …   Useful english dictionary

  • mobile — adj. & n. adj. 1 movable; not fixed; free or able to move or flow easily. 2 (of the face etc.) readily changing its expression. 3 (of a shop, library, etc.) accommodated in a vehicle so as to serve various places. 4 (of a person) able to change… …   Useful english dictionary

  • mobile — {{11}}mobile (adj.) late 15c., from M.Fr. mobile (14c.), from L. mobilis movable, easy to move; loose, not firm, figuratively, pliable, flexible, susceptible, nimble, quick; changeable, inconstant, fickle, contraction of *movibilis, from movere… …   Etymology dictionary

  • mobile — [mō′bəl, mō′bīl΄; ] for adj. 5 [ & ] n. [, mō′bēl΄] adj. [OFr < L mobilis, movable < movere, to MOVE] 1. a) moving, or capable of moving or being moved, from place to place b) movable by means of a motor vehicle or vehicles [a mobile X ray… …   English World dictionary

  • Mobile — Mo bile (m[=o] b[=e]l ), n. a form of sculpture having several sheets or rods of a stiff material attached to each other by thin wire or twine in a balanced and artfully arranged tree configuration, with the topmost member suspended in air from a …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mobile Museum of Art — Coordinates: 30°42′13″N 088°09′19″W / 30.70361°N 88.15528°W / 30.70361; 88.15528 …   Wikipedia

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