Monday, November 22, 2010

Exhibitions | New York, Anthony Caro "Upright Sculptures"

For one who has followed Anthony Caro’s recent sculpture, the current show at Mitchell Inness and Nash is a moment of summation. Caro, the master of open drawing in space, whose drawing creates fresh awareness of space; who, starting in the 1960’s, could make air seem like mass through the play of steel lines and planes in relation, became in recent decades a more monolithic, even figural sculptor. The new large-scale floor pieces in Chelsea have the solidity and grand presence of Caro’s recent works that refer to a figurative language.
However, in this show, when you walk into the gallery, it is the charged air, the sense of the space itself as a presence, that makes the viewer alert.
The ‘negative space’ is transformed by Caro’s inflection of it: don’t just look at the steel sculpture but feel what form can do to the rest of the gallery.
Caro has said that since abstraction is no longer a struggle, a revolution, he now feels free to experiment with figuration. His experiments in a more figural mode allowed him to play off his teacher, Henry Moore, and to engage with the in-the-round history of sculpture through his no-holds-barred approach to large scale work. His recent almost decade-long project, the Chapel of Light, the sculptural transformation of a 12th Century church in Bourbourg, France, (the largest art project in a religious setting since Matisse’s Vence Chapel) was of a piece with this exploration.
The Chelsea exhibition seems to me Caro’s expression of delight in returning, after Bourbourg, to the frankly industrial nature of his life-long medium: steel.
The pieces are made of tons of recycled machine parts, transformed into space smashers and air expanders; caressed by grinders into eye sliding, grandeur-tinged antidotes to the tinniness of so much of our built up world.

Jill Nathanson