Bull, 1953–54, Private collection, London.
NEW HAVEN - One of the most pleasing combinations of art and exhibition space I’ve seen in many a moon is on display now at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven: the sculptures of Sir Anthony Caro in Louis Kahn’s brilliantly modern, warm museum space, perhaps the architect’s best ever. The steel, wood and marble in the building, lit from skylights and windows that let in the perfect amount of sun, makes for a rich visual experience.
The 40-work show, “Caro Up Close,” shows off the 88-year-old British master to great advantage. It focuses on his medium- and smaller-sized sculptures, not the larger ones he’s better known for. The perfectly balanced constructions have an incredible energy; they all seem to want to jump off the tables and pedestals underneath them, but they don’t quite make the leap. His richly textured paper sculptures, which are layered three-dimensional collages that hang on the wall, were a revelation to me.
Table Piece XCVII, 1970, Private collection, London.
When the late, great painter Helen Frankenthaler gave me her last major interview, back in 2003, she singled out Caro as an inspiration to her.
“I think Tony Caro is a marvelous sculptor,” she told me. I always see something in his work. I think Tony gets better and better and more and more daring.” And she added this poignant thought about artistic achievement later in life, after a long career: “One is safe if one is still able to risk. I hope I can still do that.” She lived up to that credo until the very end, and certainly Caro continues to hold the torch aloft.