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In 1981 Anthony Caro began working at the fine art print workshop, Tyler Graphics, in the State of New York, where he produced over one hundred reliefs and two freestanding sculptures by constructing shapes made from pressed wet pulp moulded around plaster forms. When it was dry, Caro modified the pulp by cutting, folding, and compressing it and then joining pieces together. Each sculpture was built up from a rigid backing plane, made of material such as plywood covered with paper, and this served as a support not just for the paper itself but for wooden dowels and slats. Although Caro was exploring the sculptural possibilities of paper, he was also deliberately working on the boundary between different media, where painting, drawing and sculpture met. The sculptures, collectively entitled Paper Relief Sculptures, were coloured at every stage of their construction and again when they were finally assembled, with pencil, acrylic, spray paint and chalk. Caro has explained:
In the paper sculptures I get close to the graphic idea, to painting ideas and away from being so sculptural. At Ken Tyler’s I was doing all these things, using intaglio, lines, using shading, and trying all sorts of possibilities – and with some in three dimensions. We would take a piece of wet paper and I would draw on it, Ken would drape it over chairs and things and then the next day, when it was dry would pin it to the wall. (Quoted in Barker, p.251.)
#68 Untitled is made from a long rectangular piece of folded paper to which are attached two more similarly folded pieces set at a slight angle with a projecting cone of folded paper attached at the top like a collar. The result appears weighty, like a bishop’s cope, and as a structure it is also reminiscent of Renaissance drapery studies in which artists would dip a piece of cloth in plaster of Paris so that when it hardened they could see how the folds of material fell and use this information to render drapery correctly in their painting and sculpture.
By 1981 Caro had been at the forefront of the British sculptural avant-garde for twenty years, working mainly on large-scale structures in painted steel. In 1967, however, he had begun what proved to be a long-lasting series of ‘table pieces’, human-scale sculptures whose span and dimensions equated to the reach of outstretched arms. A new development took place in the mid 1970s when he looked to the Old Masters as a source of inspiration and began using quite different materials: clay, silver, lead, wood and paper. He went on to make a second series of paper sculptures with Tyler Graphics in 1993, including #11 Dusty (T11798) and #15 Point (T11801), designed not to be hung on the wall, but set on a plinth.
Elizabeth Armstrong, Pat Gilmour and Kenneth E. Tyler, Tyler Graphics: Catalogue Raisonné 1974–85, Minneapolis 1987, pp.106–10.
Ian Barker, Anthony Caro: Quest for the New Sculpture, Aldershot 2004, p.251.
Sean Rainbird and Pat Gilmour, Print Matters: The Kenneth E. Tyler Gift, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2004.