Artwork Detail

Bayonets Menacing a Flower
American, 1898–1976
Painted sheet metal and wire
45 x 51 x 18 1/2 "
University purchase, McMillan Fund, 1946
WU 3770
© Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Alexander Calder is perhaps best known as the originator of the mobile, a type of suspended sculpture in which abstract forms are set in motion by currents of air. While his work is often perceived as playful and has traditionally been viewed in formalist terms devoid of political resonance, "Bayonets Menacing a Flower" presents an overt reference to historical events. Created at the end of World War II, this kinetic sculpture incorporates ominous forms of spiky black projections that loom over a cluster of delicate white petals hovering at the end a long wire. Such expressive formal opposition, coupled with the title, suggests Calder’s attempt to negotiate the destructive impact of the war and the inhumanity of the atomic bomb. [Exhibition label, 2016]