Annely Juda Fine Art presents ‘Anthony Caro – The Last Sculptures’, the final series of works created by Sir Anthony Caro in the two years before his death in 2013, at the grand old age of 89, having practised his art consistently into his late 80s.
The Artist was renowned as a ’60s radical’ in the history of British art; Caro was known for revolutionising sculpture during that decade by taking the radical step of removing the plinth and placing his work directly on the ground or gallery floor – changing the direction of sculpture forever – and it would seem Caro was still making changes right up to the end of his life.
Between 2011–2013 the octogenarian artist began to experiment with Perspex, a material that he had only employed in one previous sculpture, the 2000 Duccio Variations No. 5. Caro was initially interested in the transparent quality of glass, but turned to Perspex as a less fragile and easier material to work with.
These works are an impressive and even touching feat for a man in his final years, the king of Modernist British sculpture’s grand swan-song. Caro was a genuine sculptor, one could say puritanical in nature; an artist who created sculptures for sculpture’s sake – ‘the truth to material’ always evident. Those words still echo in my ears from my student days – in fact; Caro was a teacher for over forty years, and you can imagine him using those words himself, and rather frequently.
The works on display are as ever impressively complex, detailed, and robust; suggesting an artist in his youth and heyday. Yet with the addition of Perspex as a juxtaposition to Caro’s usual solidity; these pieces give the subtle suggestion of the fragility of an artist in his former years. It would have perhaps done so even more; if Caro had indeed used glass. But it has to be said that the artist was inventive to the end.
Caro’s technical delight in the use of colour has never been more evident than in this exhibition; as the coloured transparencies intersect with heavy and rusted hues, and the artist’s precisely welded forms, to suggest a Rothko-esque spirituality of church glass and even, on occasion, a small touch of solemnity.
The artist is assured a place in the history of British art not least for being lauded as a progressive who discarded the figure and championed abstraction in sculpture. Racing down the ‘non-representational road’ and hailed by the likes of Clement Greenberg.
Yet ‘Sculpture for its own sake’ has become a very fashionable label of disapproval. I don’t think Caro was one for fashion. With the addition of Perspex to the artist’s repertoire; we have the final series of works, a post-industrial steam-punk chapel of colours.
Caro’s sculpture was never an existential, socio-cultural, or political statement; it was abstraction through the precision of form, colour, and weight, and there to be enjoyed.
Anthony Caro – The Last Sculptures – Annely Juda Fine Art – Until 25 October
Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2014 Photos Courtesy of Artlyst all rights reserved