Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1962-3
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Anthony Caro, 1963, no. 9, illustrated twice
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Houston, Museum of Fine Art; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Anthony Caro Retrospective, 1975, illustrated
Rome, Trajan Markets, Anthony Caro, 1992, pls. II, XII, XIII, XV, illustrated in colour
London, Tate Gallery, 1996-1997, on loan
London, Tate Modern, 2000, on loan
Liverpool, Tate, 2001-2003, on loan
London, Tate Gallery, 2004, on loan
Birmingham, Museum and City Art Gallery, 2004-2005, on loan
Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, British Art & the 60s from Tate Britain, 2005-2006
Art International VII/7, Lugano September 1963
John Russell, 'England: The Advantage of Being Thirty', in: Art in America, New York, December 1963, illustrated
Alan Bowness, Modern Sculpture, 1965, illustrated
Clement Greenberg, 'Anthony Caro', in: Arts Yearbook 8: Contemporary Sculpture, New York 1965, illustrated
William Rubin, Anthony Caro, London 1975, p. 37, illustrated in colour
Dieter Blume, Anthony Caro, Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. III, Steel Sculptures 1960-1980, Cologne 1981, pp. 29 & 186, no. 827, illustrated
Diane Waldman, Anthony Caro, Oxford 1982, p. 15, no. 12, illustrated in colour
Ian Barker, Ed., Caro, Munich 1991, no. 2, illustrated in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Gallery, Anthony Caro: Sculpture towards Architecture, 1992, p. 19, fig. 10, illustrated
International Herald Tribune, 'The Arts Guide', 17 July 1992, p. 11, illustrated
William Packer, ‘Caro Triumphs in Rome’, in: Financial Times Weekend, 23-24 May 1992, illustrated
Paul Barker, ‘Magic Toys in a Roman Market’, in: Daily Telegraph, 1 June 1992, illustrated
Ian Barker, Anthony Caro: Quest for the New Sculpture, London 2004, pp. 107 & 217, illustrated
Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate, Anthony Caro, 2005, pp. 14-15, illustrated in colour
Belonging to Sir Anthony Caro’s group of groundbreaking early abstract works, Sculpture Two 1962 is without question the most important sculpture by the artist to ever appear at auction. Acquired directly by the late Donald Gomme from the artist in the months before its inclusion in Caro’s breakthrough show at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1963, the present work occupies a peerless place within the artist’s prodigious oeuvre. This seminal, authoritative masterpiece combines the physical presence of Caro’s earliest abstract works like Midday with the plasticity and poise of his iconic Early One Morning, (see figs. 1 & 2).
Sculpture Two was the first monumental sculpture that Caro ever sold. Considered by Tate curator Paul Moorhouse to be one of the defining works of the artist’s career, “this piece [Sculpture Two 1962] acts as a kind of manifesto for the principal of sculptural gesture. Composed almost entirely of beams, these parts extend, probe, stretch, reach and recline…. The work asserts a complex ‘presence’ that builds upon the achievements of the previous two years. Significantly, this sense of presence is due not to an inflation of scale, nor to a concentration of physical mass. Rather, by developing a matrix of formal relationships, the piece offers an ever-changing flow of inflections as the viewer walks around it. The effect is that of animation, so that the structure appears charged with a sense of inner dynamism. Its presence is therefore intimately connected with the impression of immanent life that it conveys as the viewer observes its structure unfolding.” (Paul Moorhouse. ‘The forms of things unknown: Anthony Caro’s sculpture’, in Exhibition Catalogue, Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate, Anthony Caro, 2005, p. 25)
As was illustrated by Caro’s acclaimed retrospective at the Tate in 2005, Britain’s greatest living sculptor has continually challenged the formal conventions governing his chosen practice to redefine the course, form and interpretation of contemporary sculpture. Executed in 1962, two years after the first of Caro’s abstract constructions, the harmony of parts in the present work attains a sublime degree of finesse and internal resolution. As with Caro’s iconic Early One Morning and Midday, Sculpture Two 1962 eloquently asserts itself as a singular and complex physical presence. Bold in ambition and scale, its sprawling, poised composition embraces the viewer head-on with the elementary abstract lyricism of Caro’s idiosyncratic syntax. The work’s poetic, gestural quality resides in the angled disposition and intervals of its richly painted steel elements; in the way things touch and seem to float against the pull of gravity. The mutual interaction of one element with another is what is crucial here as each individual piece bestows significance and identity upon its neighbour. As it expands progressively into space, Sculpture Two 1962’s perfectly balanced disposition of line and mass is at once logical and elusive, and epitomises the effortless marriage of form and material at the heart of Caro’s oeuvre.
Sculpture Two sees Caro refining the core themes of his earliest constructions.
Here Caro tests the limits of his newfound abstract language and materials, capitalising upon the strength and physicality of the steel. The thick I-beams laid upon the ground create zones of interconnected lateral space which actively incorporate the floor as a linear element in the overall composition. This strong horizontal emphasis is countered by a rising sense of verticality as ascending beams emerge seemingly from beneath the ground leading the eye upwards and transforming the geometry of the ground plan into individual polygonal spaces. The tangible sense of space and the relationships of the component parts to each other here evolve constantly as the viewer walks around the sculpture. This gives the work a sense of animation and evolution that embodies Caro’s desire to investigate the boundaries between sculpture and drawing. As Caro explained, “I think the edges of subjects are interesting: where sculpture meets drawing, where sculpture meets architecture – these are borderlines which invite exploration.” (Anthony Caro, ‘The Architecture of Sculpture’, in Blueprint, no. 78, June 1991, p. 36
Caro’s assault on the foundations of traditional, figurative sculpture was founded upon a desire to ground his work in the real. “I had come to realise,” Caro later observed, “that it was no longer desirable for a sculpture to be a single object, a kind of metaphor for the human body…. I felt that the figure was getting in the way… I had no alternative but to make my sculpture abstract if it was to be expressive” (Anthony Caro quoted in Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate, Anthony Caro, 2005, pp. 11-13)
The crucial formative year for Caro came in 1959. Stuck in the shadow of his teacher Henry Moore and increasingly frustrated by the limitations of his own burgeoning figurative sculptures, Caro made a visit to the United States following a visit to his studio by American art critic Clement Greenberg. Greenberg encouraged Caro to adopt a more intuitive approach to his art making and emphasised the importance of exploring inherent relationships between subject and material. In the United States Caro befriended the painter Kenneth Noland as was also introduced to sculptor David Smith, an whose work he greatly admired. (fig. ???) Although the aesthetic similarity of Smith’s work is often cited as the obvious model for Caro’s early experiments into abstraction, it was more Noland’s intuitive approach to painting that fuelled Caro’s interest in the spontaneity of pure abstract expression. On returning to London, Caro determined “to make a kind of Noland,” and mastered the technique of oxyacetylene welding whilst simultaneously scouring docks and scrap yards for scrap metal. The astonishing speed and facility with which Caro found his new artistic voice is expressed in the innate balance and harmony of Sculpture Two.
Central to Caro’s pioneering quest to give his sculpture “the immediacy one feels talking one-to-one with another person,” was his elimination of the sculptural pedestal or plinth. (Anthony Caro quoted in Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate, Anthony Caro, 2005, p. 12) Like a frame to a picture, the plinth had conventionally defined an imaginary, virtual space in which a sculpture was able to embody something other than its mere physical form. An important precedent and unquestionable influence on Caro’s desire to relinquish this conventional barrier between the viewer and the work was Alberto Giacometti’s Woman With her Throat Cut (fig. 3). Like Giacometti, by placing his sculptures directly on the ground within the viewer’s actual space, the qualities of scale and form were no longer merely representational but immediate and actual manifestations of material. Although a small development in physical terms, the ramifications of removing the plinth have been enormous to the extent that freestanding sculpture has become a convention in itself.
Sculpture Two also records the progression of one of the most important themes in Caro’s oeuvre: the influence of music on art. As the artist explained: “I have been trying to eliminate references to and make truly abstract sculpture, composing the parts of the pieces likes notes in music. Just as a succession of these make up a melody or sonata, so I take anonymous units and try to make them cohere in an open way into a sculptural whole. Like music, I would like my sculpture to be the expression of feeling in terms of the material, and like music I don’t want the entirety of the experience to be given all at once.” (Anthony Caro quoted in Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Anthony Caro, 1975, p. 99)
Caro’s movement into abstraction was prompted by a belief that the tradition of figurative sculpture had deteriorated into a state of decorative impotence no longer capable of conveying feeling. Eschewing the limitations of observed reality, Caro built upon the earlier constructions of Picasso, Julio Gonzalez and David Smith to significantly extend the insights of their work in original and challenging directions.
Unlike Smith’s essentially totemic oeuvre in which the human figure remains a point of reference, Caro’s abstract constructions positively evade figuration in their formal language, pursuing an altogether purer, non-mimetic form of expression. Rather than adhering to a predetermined, anthropomorphic structure, Sculpture Two is articulated and organised solely in terms of its internal relationships. The remarkably open composition hovers as if weightless over the ground, exploding the convention of sculpture as a closed, single mass. As the viewer is provoked to walk around the sculpture, the formal relationships unfold and evolve continuously in a sequential transformation.
Few artists over the course of their career can be credited with reinventing the standards by which art is judged, yet that is precisely what Anthony Caro did with his abstract constructions. Caro defeated sculptural objecthood by imitating the efficacy of painterly gesture, and as Clement Greenberg reflected in 1965, “No other artist has gone as far from the structural logic of ordinary ponderable things.”
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