LONDON - October marks the anniversary of the death of one of Britain’s greatest sculptors. Anthony Caro passed away on the 23 October 2013, just as his exhibition at the Museo Correr during the 55th Venice Biennale – the first Italian retrospective of his work – was closing. A tribute to Caro’s virtuosity, the exhibition presented a full range of pieces from the artist’s oeuvre, from his early experiments with figuration in the 1950s, to his revolutionary painted sculptures of the 1960s, up to his monumental River Song that he completed in 2012 at the age of 87.
By the mid-1960s, Anthony Caro was firmly established as one of the most exciting and innovative sculptors at work anywhere in the world. Between his solo exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 1963 (which announced him as a major talent) and his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1975, Caro was a key figure in major international shows of the ‘New Sculpture.'
Anthony Caro during the installation of Caro’s exhibition at Kasmin Ltd, 1967. Photographed by Jorge Lewinski.
Caro’s first innovation was to take sculpture ‘down from the plinth’ (to use his own phrase) onto the floor and out into the space occupied by the viewer. Essential to this process was not working in bronze, with all its fine art, ‘back-on-the-plinth’ associations. Instead, Caro chose to work in steel and let his sculpture be guided by the pre-existing, industrial shapes this material came in: I-beams, tubes, sheets and grilles. His second – and concurrent – innovation was to introduce colour as an equal and unifying element to the work. By painting his sculptures in flat colours, using commercial paints, Caro again keeps them away from ‘art history’ (and its interest in finish and patina as evidence of the artist’s hand) and more in the ‘everyday’ world of architecture. This, incidentally, is why Caro was so insistent that his works be repainted as soon as the original finish began to fade or was cracked and broken by weathering: the surface itself should not distract, it is the colour – in symbiosis with the sculptural form – that is important. Works such as The Hunt (offered in the upcoming Modern & Post-War British Art sale on the 18th of November) represent Caro in an exuberant mode. He painted the work a vibrant blue, both reflecting and enhancing the upwards drive of the steel tubing.
Anthony Caro, The Hunt, 1966, Modern & Post-War British Art Auction, 18 November 2014, lot 24, £220,000-280,000.
Caro’s reputation as a sculptor who revolutionised the field has continued to grow following his passing. Throughout the whole of this year Musée Würth France Erstein is holding a major retrospective and memorial exhibition devoted to the scope of the artist’s work. Anthony Caro: Masterpieces from the Würth Collection will be on view from 7 February 2014 to 4 January 2015. This month a new comprehensive monograph will be published entitled Caro (Anthony Caro, Toby Glanville, Amanda Renshaw (ed.), Phaidon Press, 20 Oct 2014, which covers the full extent of Caro’s career, from his time as Henry Moore’s assistant up until the final pieces he was working on at the time of his death. The volume will also feature previously unpublished archival installation images and new documentary photographs commissioned from Toby Glanville, as well as essays by Anish Kapoor, Richard Deacon, Rachel Whiteread and Antony Gormley on how Caro has been an influence in their own works.