Chicago

Anthony Caro

Gray

The recent steel sculptures of Anthony Caro have a quiet and honeyed air about them. They have an ease of articulation, a measured and thoughtful equipoise that seems to still time and preserve order. Caro is fully aware of the heady ambitions of this body of work; in a statement accompanying this exhibition, he described the remnants of architectural sculpture at Olympia, and how “the contrast of the volumetric moving forms set against the crisp and the geometric” led to his “resolve to make pediments and metopes of my own in steel.”

Each of the five sculptures shown here is dominated by the structural decision of placing a squarish element over a lower rectangular area, and setting the two in perpetual interplay. Within their gravitational framework these provide an insistent proscenium for the quiet dramas that move through and around them. In Caro’s sculptures, each zone is subjected to varying degrees of gestural intrusion in the form of disparately-sized and -shaped elements of steel welded to their flanks. Subtle permutations reflected in small measured decisions is the rule here, manifested in a seemingly endless sequence of calligraphic metallic strokes.

These sculptures are welded constructions, but the heat of the torch is rarely felt. Rather, the dusky and rusted surfaces give the works a resolved and weathered status, as if each had been unearthed whole and complete. They possess both authority and a quality of predetermined stasis. The human scale and proportions of these sculptures—all from 1988—is key to their accessibility. Though freestanding, they read most successfully as frontal, as do the metopes that are their spiritual source. But Caro directs intervals of space to weave their way in and around them as elements of fissure, and his steel accretions stretch backward and forward, asserting volume and evoking form. Each stroke of steel receives its counterstroke until a kind of acquiescence is achieved . Within this framework, Caro realizes subtle emotive differences. Final Call is marked by its baroque interplay of large oval forms, which boldly churn within their frame. Final Blossom reads as more staid and tied to its structural grid, more determinedly about plane, the horizontal and the vertical. And in Final Frame, we witness the beginning of the unravelling of Caro’s format, as this process is stretched to the point where it begins to disassemble. These pieces both exult in classical inertia and strive beyond it.

James Yood