Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Sunday, 27 January 2013

#15 Point - Sir Anthony Caro

Sir Anthony Caro, #15 Point, 1993, Card, acrylic paint, watercolour, felt pen, graphite on cardboard base, Tate.

Another Caro paper sculpture, this time one that alludes to music manuscript paper.  Again, the colour of a Crowded House bass player's waistcoat (He's taking off the paisley one halfway through the set, only to come on in a gold one for the encore).  I love Anthony Caro's earlier stuff, and some later stuff.  I get about the formal relationships between different elements and all that.  The fact I can't explain meaningfully explain why I don't care for this in terms other than that of a spiteful 90s Melody Maker journalist is a failure.  But this, I'm not feeling.  Is anyone else?

Update: OK, I've given it a lot of thought, and I think I might have worked out what winds me up a bit about these Caro paper sculptures ('Not my cup of tea' is not an acceptable criticism).  Essentially, they are fiddling disguised as innovation.  The problem for Caro is that he is one of the last great modernist artists.  Now, modernism followed a very linear idea of artistic progress.  What a modernist artist did to earn their place in art history was find the unanswered questions arising out of the work that preceded and go about answering them.  If you did that in way that didn't totally suck, then congratulations! you're part of the story.  Unfortunately, once you've made your great contribution, there's very little for you to do except refine the big thing you did for the rest of your career, or just needlessly muck about.  If your work is monochrome, throw in more colours.  If your work is flat, make it 3-D.  If abstract, throw in a few figurative elements.  Change materials.  Do something, as long as it's a bit like your old stuff but not so much you're just producing copies.  Unless the change is so fundamental that it really throws the viewer in a Dylan-going-electric type-way (or Picasso going neo-classical), then it is ultimately just fiddling.  In David Bowie terms, this is Black Tie, White Noise.  In Rolling Stones terms, this is Voodoo Lounge.  It's nice, it reminds you a bit of past glories, but does it stand on its own merits?  Not really.

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