Anthony Caro was a highly respected sculptor whose work can be credited as providing the crucial link in the history of British Sculpture between the figurative works of the previous centuries and the abstraction of the 60’s and 70s. Most importantly however he changed the course of this history by liberating sculpture form the traditional confines of the plinth so that sculpture could be enjoyed by the viewer in a more physical, visceral sense.
Setting out as a figurative sculptor in his early career, two important experiences in 1959 were to shape Caro’s approach to making and outlook. The first was meeting the art writer and critic Clement Greenberg and the second was his first trip to the USA where he met the sculptor David Smith and the painter Kenneth Noland.
On his return to the UK and to his part time teaching at Saint Martins (1953-81) Caro had a radical change of approach to making sculpture and this forced him to rethink his teaching methods. Caro taught himself to weld and then in partnership with Frank Martin the head of department, set up a welding shop and encouraged an experimental atmosphere amongst the students which became world renowned. Caro’s influence and encouragement affected a whole generation of sculptors who went on to make their own mark in sculpture history and past students include such well known names as Richard Deacon, Barry Flanagan, Gilbert and George, Phillip King, Richard Long and William Tucker.
In 1960, Caro made his first abstract sculpture in steel Twenty Four Hours and the following year introduced colour with Sculpture Seven. In 1963 Caro had a highly influential solo show at the Whitechapel Gallery where he exhibited fifteen abstract steel sculptures. From this moment on Caro began a vigorous exhibition programme around the globe. In 1966 he exhibited at the Venice Biennale in the British Pavilion, and by the end of the 60’s had had exhibitions and retrospectives at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Musuem of Art New York, The Rikjsmuseum Kroller Muller, Netherlands, and the Hayward Gallery, London.
The following decades saw Caro continue to experiment with steel on all scales exploring both poly- chrome and rusted steel finishes. He also continued to develop work in bronze and explored wood, lead and ceramic and even delicate yet bold wall reliefs from hand made paper. Drawing was a constant part of his making process but unlike his sculpture making was usually used to relax and captured everyday subjects and figures. ￼￼ ￼
In 1984 Caro completed his first sculpture that incorporated a strong architectural dimension Child’s Tower Room and this idea of what Caro later termed ‘Sculptitecture’ which led to collaborations with well known architects such as Frank Gehry and Norman Foster.
Anthony Caro’s career and wide-ranging work has left an important legacy for sculptors and collectors alike. His work continues to be exhibited globally and 2015 saw a major retrospective exhibition take place at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Hepworth Wakefield Art Gallery.
Caro discovered a direct language in his association with the work of David Smith and Kenneth Noland, and his intellectual friendship with Clement Greenberg. He liberated sculpture on to the floor and allowed us to enjoy our own spaces through its catalytic effect.