Anthony Caro (born 1924) has played a pivotal role in the development of twentieth century sculpture. After studying sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools in London, he worked as assistant to Henry Moore. He came to public attention with a show at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1963, where he exhibited large abstract sculptures brightly painted and standing directly on the ground so that they engage the spectator on a one-to-one basis. This was a radical departure from the way sculpture had hitherto been seen and paved the way for future developments in three-dimensional art.
In order for people not to view
the table sculptures as maquettes for larger works, which bore no relation to
his way of working, Caro integrated the table so that it became part of the
work. The scale, height and table edge were all explored as well as the
relationship of these small sculptures to the viewer’s personal space. In Table
Piece VIII the table edge has become an intricate part of the piece. The
sculpture could not exist without it. The sculpture is placed on a square white
table and a curved element reaches over the edge whilst still attached to an
extended L-shape. A silver hollow rod extends upwards and over and cuts across
another side of the table, a third of its form extending over the edge towards the
floor. Caro incorporates the recognisable everyday objects of scissors. We are
reminded that we handle everyday objects from this height. Caro found it
difficult to decide what colour to paint his table sculptures, often leaving
them in polished steel and uncoloured to give them a jewel-like quality. He
sometimes sprayed them in automobile paint encouraging a scrutiny of surface
and detail. He often made his table sculptures in the evenings in his garage studio
at home and worked on larger ground-based sculpture in his studio where there
was more room. ‘There is something about…their smaller size…it would be rather
like drawing – making table sculptures…Making my table sculptures is fun, very loose.
I go in there and I put some music on…and I’ve got a lot of steel hanging
around and I mess about until something starts to come…’ Barker, 2004, page 1.