art_PMA_newsculpture_main
'MOMENT' Varnished steel by Sir Anthony Caro, 1971.

The British sculptor SIR ANTHONY CARO (b. 1924) is one of a handful of globally recognized sculptors. In its acquisition and installation of "Moment" the Portland Museum has added significantly to the total of major sculptures in Maine, where good sculpture is hard to find, especially in public places.

When Caro made "Moment" in 1971 he was a dozen years into a transition from the more traditional sculptural materials of stone and plaster he had learned while working with Henry Moore in the early 1950s. Around 1960 he had come to the US and met, among others, the sculptor David Smith. He took to the idea of assembling sculptures by cutting and welding metal almost immediately, and began to make works that were startlingly original and resonant.

He taught sculpture in the UK for many years, and the list of sculptors of note he taught was a long one and included Isaac Witkin, who was my own mentor in metal sculpture. Witkin showed me how to go about it, and through him I started to look at Caro, who was for years a model of how good that kind of work could be. I've followed his work for years, and still do.

"Moment" is a classic of its type, assembled from ordinary steel I-beams, channels, and other familiar industrial shapes. It's a little over four feet high by eight feet in its longest dimension, and six in the other. It's organized around a wide, horizontal I-beam at its center, with other beams stacked above and assemblies of other shapes holding it up. The big beam sets the thematic tone, and the other parts collage their way into a structure. The pieces are simply welded together, just as any steel structure would be.

What makes this work stand out is that its components are not arranged, as is usually the case in many attempts to make sculptures this way. Instead they cohere, and create an identity, as if they could not have been put together any other way. Caro's senses of mass, shape, and connection make this a unit, and it occupies its space with quiet authority.

Isaac Witkin used to say that a sculpture should take over the space it occupies, and this seems to be true of any really good ones, whether it's Rodin, Brancusi, Maillol, or Serra. "Moment" is nothing more than a welded steel assembly, but it absolutely owns that space where it now lives.

"ELEGANT ENIGMAS: THE ART OF EDWARD GOREY" | at Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square, Portland | through December 29 | 207.871.1700

"MOMENT" | Sir Anthony Caro, varnished steel, 1971 | at Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square, Portland | on permanent display | 207.775.6148

< prev  1  |  2  | 
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Portland Museum of Art
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY KEN GREENLEAF
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   JEFF EPSTEIN’S INTIMATE PAINTINGS OF THE EVERYDAY  |  October 30, 2013
    Jeff Epstein’s show is a group of small paintings in a small room at the end of a small alley in Portland, but it opens questions that are valuable and substantial.
  •   WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM FREDERICK LYNCH AND WILLIAM MANNING  |  October 03, 2013
    Both Frederick Lynch and William Manning are in their late 70s, both have taught others, and, more important, both have had a consistent arc over their long working careers. You can spot and identify works by either artist from a distance.
  •   JEFF BADGER LOOKS UP, DOWN, AND ALL AROUND  |  September 06, 2013
    The show is largely works on paper, and mostly funny and sometimes a little creepy, and often both.
  •   EXPLORING A MASSIVE EXPANSION AT COLBY’S MUSEUM  |  August 08, 2013
    The Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion at the Colby College Museum of art, just opened, has added some 66 percent to the museum’s existing exhibition space, to a total now of some 38,000 square feet. With the gift of the 500 or so objects from the Lunder Collection, it means they can fill the space without breaking into a sweat.
  •   A SHOREWARD LOOK AT MAURICE PRENDERGAST’S CAREER  |  July 10, 2013
    Maurice Brazil Prendergast (1858-1924) has been something of a problematic figure for those of us who grew up in the long shadow of modernism.

 See all articles by: KEN GREENLEAF