Anthony Caro 1924-2013

Provenance

Private Collection, acquired directly from the artist
Private Collection, Dublin

Exhibitions

2008, Dublin, Hillsboro Fine Art, Anthony Caro: Selected Works, 1 - 24 May 2008, unnumbered
2012, London, Waterhouse and Dodd, John Noel Smith & Anthony Caro, 25 Jan. - 17 Feb. 2012, unnumbered

Literature

Dieter Blume, Anthony Caro: Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. VI, Steel Sculptures 1984-1986, 1981, Verlag Galerie Wentzel, cat. no. 1776, p. 167 (illus.)
Michael Warren, 'Preface' in Anthony Caro: Selected Works, 2008, exh. cat. Hillsboro Fine Art, pp. 3, 4 and 9 (illus.)
Anthony Caro was one of the foremost British sculptors of the twentieth century. Toward Centre is a large and forceful construction which addresses questions of architecture as much as of sculpture. Its fractured planes look back to the artist’s ‘Flats’ series from the preceding years. However, as its planes and forms are subject to centripetal forces implied by the title – with the accumulated sheets of steel pulling towards an unclear middle point – they undergo a fraught coalescence. The work appears to strive towards a more robust enclosure of space. Certain later works, Lakeside Folly (1988) and Indian Box (1987), achieve this same sense of enclosure and draw nearer to functional objects of containment. In keeping with Caro’s most characteristic work of the nineteen-seventies and nineteen-eighties, Toward Centre uses a compressed, serious and darkly rusticated patina, suggestive of common rust, which contributes to the sculpture’s identity as a robust, unpretentious object.

In conversation with the architect Norman Foster in 2005, Caro spoke of the artist’s need to understand ‘what the air does to form – how it bites into the solid’. In light of this comment, the angular incisions of space that jut into Toward Centre are of special note. The sculpture bridges an empty space, a dramatic arena framed by the substantial volume of the work. Though powerful and massive, these unexpected improvisations introduce an element of playful instability to the work; the ‘centre’ referred to in the title might easily be the earth’s centre, hinting that the work is fighting to resist the pull of gravity.

In speaking of ‘what the air does to form’, Caro put an emphasis on the interaction between the sculpture itself and the space around it. The phrase also conjures an idea of breathing – a basic rhythm that measures out human life. This mixture also necessarily includes the body of the person viewing the sculpture; Caro’s work was intended as a forceful address to its audience, and the physical immediacy of the sculpture is of central importance. Designing the work to stand on its own base, free from the mediating effect of a plinth, the sculptor was experimenting with a contrasting range of effects to those found in his plinth-bound ‘table pieces’. Though it is free from a plinth, Toward Centre intriguingly introduces aspects of the plinth into its formal language, with a raised table-level plane and its grounded format. Drawing together these themes – of space, presentation, volume and patination – Toward Centre is a work of many parts that offers a potent summary of Caro’s artistic interests from the nineteen-eighties.

Having gained a degree in engineering from Christ's College, Cambridge, Caro chose to pursue a career as a sculptor, studying at Farnham School of Art, Regent Street Polytechnic (now part of the University of Westminster), and the Royal Academy Schools. He worked as an assistant to Henry Moore in the early fifties, producing figurative work indebted to Moore and his early exposure to the work of Charles Wheeler. On a pivotal trip to the United States in 1959, Caro spent time with critic and proponent of abstract expressionism, Clement Greenberg, as well as the painter Helen Frankenthaler, and sculptor David Smith. Adopting the new approach to colour and form endorsed by Greenberg and his acolytes, Caro returned to England with a revolutionized sculptural language. Bolting and welding flat planes of metal together and painting them with bold colours, sited without plinths, he quickly gained notoriety. He would maintain a transatlantic reputation for the rest of his career, with some American critics claiming him as a native. Caro went on to work in a variety of media, sizes and scales including paper and plastics, public and domestic, from the handheld to the monumental.