In downtown Chicago there’s a big piece of monumental public art by Alexander Calder. I don’t know what it’s called.* It’s about five office-tower storeys high, so I guess it deserves the tag “monumental.” It looks a little like a crouching long-legged insect. But the most striking thing about it, the thing that really grabs your attention and keeps it, is its colour.
It’s red. Calder was once asked (so the tour guides will tell you) – “what colour is that?” he replied, “It’s Calder Red.” Perhaps you might find a colour of that name in crayon bags and paint boxes these days.
Calder Red is of course like other reds you will have seen. It’s related to them, shall we say. The red of an apple, a bus, the iconic fire-engine, a Ferrari, a strawberry. It’s related to those reds; but it’s also related to orange – the colour of the fruit, or a deep November sunset, or a traffic-warden’s safety vest. There’s a definite streak of orange in Calder Red, though it’s not orange. You couldn’t call it orange. It doesn’t have orange’s friendliness. It has red’s intense bloodiness, though not the strong gore and nausea and sheer brightness of blood.
Somehow Calder Red, through a mysterious blending, mixing, a hybridisation, manages to allude to the sunniness of orange, even the youth of yellow, but retains always and dominantly the strength, the irresistibility, of red.
*The sculpture is called “Flamingo”