Anthony Caro first exhibited a collection of book sculptures at Annely Juda Fine Art in 1998. Having largely avoided the use of clay (Caro favoured metal in his foray into abstraction from the early 1960’s), an introduction to the German ceramist, Hans Spinner, in the early 1990s sparked an interest in the material and the original stoneware books were begun in 1995. In 2011 Caro re-discovered the material and began experimenting with different combinations of steel appendages, incorporating workshop tools into the folds and creases of clay.
The inspiration for the nine abstract Bronzes in the show comes from a photograph of a soft leather handbag belonging to his wife Sheila Girling, which Caro took in 2011. The interplay between the bag’s undulating, crumpled exterior surface can be identified in the soft folds that have been masterfully achieved here in bronze. Caro began to incorporate other objects: shells collected near his cottage on the Dorset coast, the rock that propped open the door of the tearoom of his Camden studio, a shoeshine box, a kitchen bowl. These intimate, deliberately unpolished sculptures, although abstract, evoke the early bronze women that Caro produced back in the 1950’s.
Caro was ceaselessly concerned with sculpture’s interaction with the body, and hand-held tools feature largely throughout his career as a means to highlight the interplay with the human body. The books were vehicles to continue a life-long exploration into sculptural form by an artist who was at the forefront of radical developments in three-dimensional art, whilst the bronze sculptures “offer a reminder that even at his most abstract, Caro never lost a sense of the figure.” (Alastair Sooke, ‘Bronze and Book Sculpture’ catalogue essay, 2016)