Caro initially experimented with figurative representation as an assistant in Henry Moore’s studio from 1951 to 1953. However, in 1959 Caro travelled to the USA and began to turn towards abstraction, driven by his rivalry with American sculptor David Smith. Caro explained, “Moore was like both a parent and teacher to me…Smith was much more like a competitor”.
‘Table Piece Z-8’ is a fascinating example of the small calligraphic sculptures Caro made from fluid strokes of solid steel in the 1970s. These ‘writing pieces’, as they were also known, were made from found objects such as handles, scissors and utensils which defined the scale of the sculpture in comparison to the human hand. Caro explained, “All sculpture is to do with the physical – all sculpture takes its bearings from the fact that we live inside our bodies and that our size and stretch and strength is what it is”. Kept to a modest size, Caro identified these smaller sculptures as works in their own right, rather than simply maquettes. Having rejected convention by placing sculpture directly onto the ground, these table top pieces also mark a discrete shift in Caro’s practice.
In ‘Table Piece Z-8’ the lightness and open form of the dynamic twists of steel are markedly different to the monumentality of sculptures by Hepworth and Moore. Instead Caro expresses a sense of freedom and spontaneity, evoked by the dancing line of the writing pieces which are penned in industrial materials. Caro was also eager to experiment with varnished or waxed rusted steel during this period, inspired by the time he spent in the steel factories of Toronto and Brianza in Italy.
Anthony Caro’s Table Pieces were first exhibited together in the UK at the new Hayward Gallery, London in 1969 and can now be found in numerous international collections including Tate, London; National Gallery of Australia; Louisiana Museum of Art, Copenhagen; Royal Academy of Art, London; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; National Gallery of Art, Washington and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Barcelona.
Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago
Private Collection, USA (acquired from the above in 1981)
Dieter Blume, Anthony Caro Catalogue Raisonné Vol. II: Table and Related Sculptures, Miscellaneous Sculptures, Bronze Sculptures 1974-1980, Cologne, 1981, cat no.493, illus. p.122