The exhibition highlighted the artist’s exploration of the relationship between sculpture and architecture – a principal direction in Caro’s work since the early 1980s. The shared aesthetic concerns of space, scale and volume which link the two disciplines were reflected in the large sculptures. The works that convey this communion of thinking Caro chose to call ‘sculpitecture’. They often demand physical involvement. Just as a person experiences a building walking in and through as well as around it, so the sculptures invited visitors to inhabit and interact with them in a physical way. The 33 metre-long sculpture Goodwood Steps, for example, allowed visitors to walk around and between its huge columns. By relating to the sculpture in this physical way, our own human size gave a new and more immediate reference to the piece.
Walking through a Caro sculpture provides a way of experiencing it that demands a different frame of reaction. Child’s Tower Room, made from Japanese oak, tempted the spectator to climb into it, experience its portholes, its entrances small enough to squeeze through and steps to climb up or squat under. Caro intended the piece to be a room that children experience tangibly, to help them learn more about themselves and the space we inhabit.
Caro’s belief that architecture is the purest abstract visual form, activating ambient space, sky and light, was perfectly shown in the openness of Longside gallery. The size of the building permits large-scale sculptures, normally sited outdoors, to be exhibited alongside each other in an indoor space. The perspective of siting sculpture within a landscape is maintained in this indoor space via the huge window which stretches the entire width of the building and overlooks the 18th-century Bretton landscape. Associations between the interior and exterior, evident in Caro’s work, are also reflected back into the gallery space through this framed view. Furthermore, this drama between sculpture, interior space and landscape stimulates a sense of history and reference to classical art, design and architecture.
As well as monumental sculpture, the exhibition included 1/20 scale models which charted the development of Caro’s work from the 1950s to the present. They created the context for the sculptures in the show and were made after the full-scale sculptures themselves were finished.
Born in 1924, Caro was one of Britain’s most innovative sculptors. His sculpture and teaching at St Martin’s School of Art in the 1960s influenced the direction of British sculpture and throughout his life Caro continually experimented with form and material. During his lifetime, Caro exhibited throughout the world and is represented in over 100 public collections.