Mary Reid’s Anthony Caro: Drawing in Space is part of a five-volume series commemorating the British sculptor’s 85th birthday. The other books in the series are Figurative and Narrative Sculpture by Julius Bryant, Interior and Exterior by Karen Wilkin, Presence by Paul Moorehouse, and Small Sculptures by H.F. Westley Smith. Reid’s focus is on Caro’s engagement with line in three-dimensional space, examining elements of weightlessness, color, movement, and environment within his works.
Reid begins her discussion by looking at Caro during his art school days in the 1950s and his burgeoning dissatisfaction with figurative sculpture. She deftly chronicles Caro’s evolution from early figurative works to his famed pieces elevating common building materials such as steel girders and I-beams into art. Included in this section are Caro’s drawings from the period, demonstrating his interest in paring down line to its minimum while retaining expressiveness. Reid cites Caro’s decision to eliminate the pedestal as a major turning point, noting that he was the first sculptor to remove the base entirely from his sculpture. She quotes from a 1965 letter to Caro’s friend and dealer Ian Barker in which the artist explains, “What makes sculpture more special, isolates it in fact, from all of this?…Now if you bring the sculpture off its base it begins to have only those merits that are intrinsic in its nature—either it is lifeless junk or it carries an intention, it has poetry about it or it’s nothing.”
Like the other books in this series, the latter part of Reid’s volume is organized like an art historical catalogue, making it a useful volume with interest for both art historians and casual art fans. This section includes drawings, color and black and white photographs, and short texts that describe the genesis of each work while tracing its influences. The specificity of the subject matter here makes this particular part of the series of most interest to readers seeking insight into the iconic period of Caro’s career—Early One Morning, Hop Scotch, and Month of May. But Reid also does an excellent job of emphasizing Caro’s continuous evolution, ending with his recent work and his statement that “I want to extend myself, extend what I do. I want to try what I don’t know, not repeat what I do.”
Anthony Caro: Drawing in Space by Mary Reid
Surrey, UK: Lund Humphries, 2009
Hardcover, 152 pages, $60.00.