Thursday, 19 September 2013


Early One Morning 1962 Painted Steel and Aluminium 2896 x 6198 x 3353 mm

This is probably the oldest work of art I've featured, as I draw near to writing my 250th blog on art by living artists, freely on display in central London. You can see it in Tate Britain's revolutionary re-hang A Walk Through Britain curated earlier this year.

When I first saw it years ago, I was shocked. I knew what a sculpture was. It was a work probably  made out of precious materials like marble or bronze. It may require modelling in clay. The craftsmanship involved, even when working on easier, expendable materials like wood, seemed beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. It could be 'read' i.e. it represented a person or a place, an ideal or a value. Lastly it was so special it was mounted on a base or pedestal which seemed to mark out an untouchable space, and at the same time it was lifted high above the viewer.

And what about the title? That was a shock too. Couldn't I expect a pleasant oil painting or water colour with a pastoral landscape, a couple of lovers and even a small bunch of cattle?

Later I wondered if the title could be read as a signal that a new day had arrived in the history of art? Caro had broken the rules. In the early 1960s he began to make purely abstract works: sculpture constructed and welded in steel, comprising beams, girders and other found elements painted in bright colours.Such works caused a sensation. It took time for me to appreciate it. Looking back I think I was helped by Alexander Calder's mobiles. I'd probably only seen photographs, but that was enough. A visit to the Jean Miro Foundation in Barcelona clinched matters. I could appreciate and enjoy the immediate, real, physical presence and excitement of Caro's work.
Artist: Alexander Calder

His innovations heralded a revolution in art. Conventional ideas about materials, surface, scale, form and space were overturned by his radical reworking of all these elements - a principle which subsequently became a touchstone for contemporary sculpture.

An authoritative paper by Alexander Calder on mobiles as works of art:

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