From Mind to Matter
Throughout his career the sculptor Anthony Caro has been intrigued by the question of what sculpture is and its inherent possibilities. Apollo caught up with him at his studio
Martin Gayford, Sunday, 1st May 2011
‘I didn’t think 30 years ago that people would be this interested in sculpture,’ says Sir Anthony Caro, ‘but they are. They’ve started looking at it, instead of thinking of it as something you might bump into or trip over. It’s very odd, I don’t know if it’s good or bad but I’m delighted.’
Caro himself is a pivotal figure in the extraordinary history of sculpture in Britain over the last century or so. Exactly half way through ‘Modern British Sculpture’, an exhibition held at the Royal Academy (RA) earlier this year, Caro’s Early One Morning (1962) commanded a room all to itself .
Whatever one thought of that controversial and eccentric exhibition, it is hard to deny that Caro’s sculpture still looked fresh, strong and even audacious after almost half a century. It is somehow filled with the mood of the 1960s. Constructed of steel girders and aluminium, its stark angularity nonetheless seems to defy gravity; its colour of bright orange-red is both brash and hopeful.
‘People say that the colours we used were Carnaby Street colours’, says Caro, recalling the work that he and his contemp-oraries and pupils at St Martin’s School of Art made at that time, ‘I don’t think so. It was a very forward-looking time, there was an optimistic attitude around. Carnaby Street partook of it and we did too.’
The central positioning of Caro’s work in the Royal Academy exhibition is obviously correct. In lots of ways, he belongs there. Several of the sculptors who became prominent in the ’70s and ’80s – Gilbert & George, Richard Long, Barry Flanagan – were Caro’s students (if not necessarily his followers stylistically). From their work it is a short step to Antony Gormley, Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor. But Caro’s own teachers and beginnings belong to a distant world, one that would be more recognisable to Donatello or Phidias than Damien Hirst.
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