In 1948 Calder travelled to Brazil to exhibit his work in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The visit was a tremendous success. Just a few years after the end of Getúlio Vargas’s military dictatorship, the enthusiastic reception of Calder’s sculptures reflected an era of optimism and a new appetite for modernity. Indeed, the concerns associated with Calder’s work, such as motion, space, and the dynamic interaction between the viewer and the artwork, would become pivotal for young Brazilian artists such as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, and the Neo-Concrete movement.
One of the more tangible legacies of Calder’s trip was Black Widow, which was donated by the artist to the Institute of Architects of Brazil in São Paulo. Usually hanging in a central space in the Institute’s headquarters, the mobile links the ground floor and mezzanine, and is also visible through windows from the street. Loaned abroad for the first time for this exhibition, the 3.5 metre sculpture demonstrates the ability of Calder’s work to define an architectural space rather than simply occupying it.