Dieter Blume, Anthony Caro Catalogue Raisonné Volume V, Cologne, 1986, no.1604, illustrated p206 and p313
If one takes a comprehensive view of modern sculpture, Caro is commonly considered to be what comes `after Moore’ and contemporary sculpture is, without a doubt, what comes `after Caro’. Caro has established completely new conditions for sculpture in the 20th Century by eliminating the base, presenting many of his sculptures with a horizontal orientation, and liberating space by eliminating volume. Caro is most often associated with his linear steel sculptures however, from as early as the late seventies he was also casting his sculpture in bronze. To work in bronze was to readdress all the conversations about tradition and form that he had explored in his abstract sculptures in steel. The desire to turn to bronze was not motived by tradition but by an awareness of the possibilities that Caro began to see in the material. Indeed the challenge was something he relished as`…bronze carried the freight of art history with it, both formally and conceptually … and haunted the history of sculpture.'1
Small bronze `P’ is composed of individual cast pieces of bronze that have been welded to form a whole. Bronze formed an important component of Caro’s work from 1981 when he first showed his cast and welded bronze sculptures in London and he states `It’s good to take chances, especially when you get older. Risk taking is necessary; life would be dreary without it. Besides, I don’t only want steel now. Steel is fairly easy for me because I know it well and I have a team of helpers. So I need to try something new, something difficult (the artist in conversation with Pep Subirós)2.
In 1980, Caro received an invitation from Hughto and Rodger Mack, head of the Sculpture department to make a return trip to Syracuse University, this time to work in bronze. This experience enlarged Caro’s approach considerably, since he had the assistance that he needed to construct new, looser works. He also gained the technical knowledge he needed. As Caro has noted, welding steel requires the artist to use only one hand to manipulate the pieces while using the other to spot weld them together. Welding allows for swift almost instant construction – which, combined with the relatively light weight of steel, permits the artist to improvise. Because of steel’s tensile strength, a rapidly assembled improvisation is self-sustaining. As bronze is heavier than steel, more effort is needed to manipulate the components. Moreover, welding bronze required two hands, one holding the welding rod, the other the welder itself.
In Small bronze `P’, Caro’s entry into an unconventional combination of casting and welding encouraged a new found openness in his work through a use of new materials and techniques. Curvilinear elements that are in line with the vocabulary of his steel sculpture are demonstrated. Here, Caro achieves a lightness of touch and a lightness of material that characterised his earlier table pieces. The work consists of volumes and forms that allude to Caro’s interpretations of ivory miniatures.
1. H F Westley-Smith, Anthony Caro Small Sculptures, Lund Huphries, Farnham, 2010, p25.
2. ibid. p26