With Barbara Hepworth off visiting at Tate Britain in London, in Yorkshire a two-site exhibition opened this week, providing a thorough retrospective of the work of Anthony Caro. Indoors at the Hepworth Wakefield, Caro’s sculpture will be shown in the context of his career-long engagement with architecture, which became increasingly explicit across his later years. Meanwhile the Yorkshire Sculpture Park will take as its focus the interplay between Caro’s sculpture and the world of painting.
Over 100 works will be displayed in total, spanning sixty years of Caro’s career. The exhibitions are collectively operating under the title Caro in Yorkshire, and comprise a Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle initiative. They will be accompanied by seminars at the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Art Gallery.
At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Caro’s Promenade (1996) is already one of the 500-acre site’s prominent attractions, its graceful sequence of painted steel focusing the lower park and looking fixedly out over the lake. Promenade is regularly accompanied in the open air by Forum and Dream City (both 1992-1994).
For Caro in Yorkshire, the YSP’s Longside Gallery will exhibit some of Caro’s earliest, small-scale, figurative work on paper and in bronze; opening out onto his initial experiments in painted steel, including Month of May (1963). In the garden there will be a unique selection from his Flats series, made in Canada in rusted and varnished steel in the 1970s.
The YSP’s main centre will feature some of Caro’s scale models. Across the YSP, the full extent of Caro’s career will be showcased, up to the Duccio Variations (2000) and The Last Sculptures (2013), which saw him utilising Perspex for the first time. Some of The Last Sculptures were first shown at Caro at Correr, the major Italian retrospective of Caro’s art which was held during the 55th Venice Art Biennale in 2013 – the exhibition’s close coming just days after Caro’s death, aged eighty-nine, in late October. Several of these sculptures drew heavily on Cézanne’s paintings of card players.
Beginning with Twenty Four Hours (1960) and Caro’s emergence from the shadows cast by Hepworth and Moore, the Hepworth Wakefield will also conclude by offering a UK premiere of some of The Last Sculptures.
Born in 1924, after earning a degree in engineering and serving with the Royal Navy, between 1947 and 1952 Caro studied at the Royal Academy Schools. In the early 1950s he briefly worked as an assistant to Henry Moore; and by the end of the decade his sculpture was already winning international acclaim. He first visited the United States in 1959, forming influential relationships with the expressionist sculptor David Smith, and the abstract painters Jules Olitski, Helen Frankenthaler, and Kenneth Noland.
In the context of British sculpture, in the 1960s Caro proved the decisive break with figurative forms. His self-supporting sculptures typically stood alone, directly on the floor of exhibiting venues, with Caro demonstrating a keen and often controlling awareness of the surroundings which would interact with and influence the perception of his art. The first major Caro retrospective was held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1975, straightforwardly entitled Anthony Caro: A Retrospective. A year later he was presented with the Key to the City of New York.
In 1987, Caro and Frank Gehry collaborated in New York to construct a wooden ‘Sculpture Village’, demonstrating what they termed the practise of ‘Sculpitecture’. A decade later Caro would work with the architect Norman Foster and the engineer Chris Wise to design London’s Millennium Bridge. Caro stated:
‘In this century it was not the sculptors who revitalised sculpture – it was the painters. They were outsiders who understood the subject; nevertheless they were not trapped within its imagined regulations. I believe that now sculpture and architecture may be similarly nourished by one another.’
A comprehensive Caro retrospective was held at Tate Britain in 2005; but this promises to be Europe’s biggest ever exhibition of Caro’s work. Caro in Yorkshire will run at both locations until 1 November. Beyond positive reviews in BBC Arts and The Independent, Mark Hudson in The Telegraph has called it ‘pretty much unmissable’; while Adrian Searle in The Guardian affirms it is ‘sculpture that can take your breath away’.
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