Character

The Caro piece I put up in an earlier post is an interior, and the window is one of the great modern images, used by both Picasso and Matisse, among others. When Caro’s work is landscape, or any kind of space, instead of a figure, the figure is implied. In fact the viewer is that figure – a conventional trope. When the work is emptied of any reference to the human body, and then set as a kind of stage for the viewer to walk on and in front of (note of course that the piece sits on the floor, putting viewer and configuration in the same space), then the figurative is strongly felt even though it is displaced onto the viewer. Because it is. So the debate between modernist presence and minimalist literalism fades away. A local and temporary fuss stirred up by Michael Fried, and better forgotten. It begins to appear that the figurative is very hard to escape, at least in sculpture, and full three dimensionality, as advocated by Robin Greenwood, will not get any further.

In the video interview already mentioned, Caro says that without character abstraction is dull. The term can have a moral weight, it can be an evaluation, or it can mean a figure. I think sculptures are characters, as in characters in a story, or characters one meets on the street, or in any space. Notice also that in the video interview Caro is content with a literal three dimensionality—but in my mind that starts the thought that the “sides” of a person are all metaphorical, and that all such metaphors emerge out of the difficulties of face to face encounter. The achievement of full sculptural roundedness, beyond the literally, factually given, will entail some confrontation with what it means for a person to be many-sided, with the full roundedness of a unique personality, always embedded in encounters with others, always metaphorical and full of misunderstanding and partial perception. The full roundedness of a person is often hard to see. Even under normal daily circumstances it has to be invented, and rarely is. One has to be an artist to see the world as it is, to accomplish which is precisely to practice an art. Sculpture is easier to see, because it doesn’t constantly change in front of us. The circuit of a work is a more manageable kind of change, because one can come back to the same configuration again. These thoughts are probably coming out of my current work on painted spheres.

Night Movements 1987-90 by Sir  born 1924

Anthony Caro, Night Movements 1987-90

I think the illustrated works—characters—are as three dimensional as Greenwood could wish, though they have some flat sides.

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