17 1/8 x 50 x 19 1/8 in
Sold by Galerie Wentzel, Cologne, 1985, to Dr De Slippere, Ghent
Adam Gallery, Bath, 2001
Private Collection, Holland
Exhibitions2016, London, Piano Nobile, Aspects of Abstraction: 1952-2007, 17 May - 23 June 2016, cat. no. 16, col. ill. p. 51.
Dieter Blume (ed.). Anthony Caro: Catalogue Raisonné Vol. II: Table and Related Sculptures, Miscellaneous Sculptures, Bronze Sculptures 1974-1980 (Cologne, 1981), cat. no. 29, p. 125, illustrated.
The Writing Pieces, begun in the late 1970s, form a distinct facet of the Table Piece series, a development within Caro’s small sculptures on a palpably human scale designed for intimate scrutiny. Caro never made preparatory drawings or pre-planned these pieces, instead they were reflex-led. The art critic William Packer wrote of them, that Caro “is essentially an instinctive artist, who picks up the stuff he has to hand to see what comes of it. There is no formula, no programme, but simply the urge to touch, to mark and to make”. The horizontal orientation of the Writing Pieces, as with the Table Pieces, encourages a reading that is not necessarily morphological (verticality being perhaps suggestive of the human form), but literal and gestural.
In 1959 Caro made his first visit to New York and met Clement Greenberg for the second time. Having visited Caro in his studio earlier that year, the critic introduced him to the painters Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and the sculptor David Smith. This trip was of fundamental importance to Caro’s development: speaking decades later, he said “…I came out of New York…I have always felt comfortable in America – New York was where I came of age as an artist”. In particular the pure and focused aesthetic of Noland and the industrial material utilised by Smith, provided the impetus for Caro to reject modelling in all forms, and to embrace bolting, melding and soldering. In turn, Caro’s influence upon the so-called ‘New Generation’ of British sculptors including Philip King, William Tucker, and Tim Scott, all of whom he taught at St Martin’s School of Art in London, was unparalleled. Equally, British painters were indebted to Caro’s forms and colouration – in 1969 Anthony Caro and John Hoyland represented Great Britain at the Saõ Paulo Biennial in a joint exhibition.
From the 1959 trip onwards, British and American art critics, including Clement Greenberg, Michael Fried and Lawrence Alloway, extolled Caro’s work. Fried’s seminal 1967 essay, ‘Art and Objecthood’, contains the oft-quoted observation that “the mutual inflection of one element by another…is what is crucial…everything in Caro’s art that is worth looking at is in its syntax”. The Writing Pieces are underpinned by a certain humour and metaphorical punning. Caro explores a slippage between the table as writing surface, sculptures as writing in space, and the communicative gesture of a sculptural artwork. As William Packer wrote, the Writing Pieces exist, “between the uttered phrase and the tacit implication…the Writing Pieces seem to trace the very idea of writing itself to its origins…a description at once of writing and sculpture itself”.