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Anthony Caro exhibit makes Scripps first stop in U.S. tour

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Anthony Caro’s latest work, “A Life in Sculpture: The Kenwood Series,” made its U.S. debut Saturday with an opening reception at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College in Claremont.

The series included 13 sculptures in stoneware and steel. It was first exhibited in London in July 2004 as part of the celebration for Caro’s 80th birthday.

“As a painter, I think his work is absolutely remarkable,” said Amy Kark, attendant to the event and professional artist. “It is much more organic.”

The show included works titled, “Monitor”, “Law Makers Table” and perhaps the most recognizable piece of the series “Artist’s Table.” In this piece the dark colored clay sits on steel legs in the shape of an “L” which had the appearance of belonging to a machine. On top there are various pieces of clay baring just the essential characteristics of a book and a bottle.

The audience seemed to like how Caro allowed the material to show its own color including rust in the steel.

“The warmth of clay creates interesting contrast with the coldness of steel,” Scripps College alumna Karen Sullivan said.

“The sculptures seem whimsical and playful,” said Kirk Delman, registrar and collections manager for the gallery. “This might come as a surprise for those that are familiar with his previous work.”

“His earlier work is more geometric, abstract and austere,” said Mary MacNaughton, associate professor of art history and director of the gallery.

“This series is the result of a confident artist putting all his previous work together,” she added.

Karen Wilkin, an independent art critic, gave the lecture, “Anthony Caro: Tables, Myths, and Metaphors,” before the reception which outlined Caro’s previous work and techniques.

Caro is a very important figure in 20th century sculpture. Born in 1924, he earned a degree in engineering from Christ’s College in Cambridge. He studied sculpture from 1947 to 1952. In 1959, he traveled to the U.S. from Britain where he met artists such as David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell and Kenneth Noland, whose work inspired Caro to become an abstract sculptor.

“Caro wanted sculpture to be as real as a table or a chair without looking like a table or a chair,” Wilkin said.

Caro first worked with wood. He focused on creating figures that seemed to defy gravity. In many of his sculptures, items appear to be floating.

In the 1970s, Caro began to work with steel.

“Carol did not paint or transform [steel] just presented it,” Wilkin said.

During this time period, Caro also experimented with changing scale. He began making sculptures that were much bigger and that the audience could actually interact with.

“There is work of his that must be physically entered,” Wilkin said. “The speed at which you move through it adds to the piece.”

Caro wanted to allow human presence to re-enter his work. He began making pieces based on paintings.

“Caro expressed his feelings and memories about certain paintings,” Wilkin said. “What he lives, feels and what puzzles him, is transformed into sculpture language.”

In his later years he began to work with industrial ceramic.

Caro only made abstract figures. He felt the only way sculpture is powerful is when abstract work starts to became something on its own, Wilkin said.

The Kenwood series will be on display at the Williamson Gallery until Oct. 23. It will then travel to the Bentely Projects in Phoenix, Arizona and finally to the Garth Clark Gallery in New York.

Laura Bucio can be reached at

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