Writing Piece ‘Other’ is an abstract sculpture made of found tools, such as spanners, a bradawl and a steel file, and industrial parts and steel plate scraps bent and welded together. It has an untreated surface, some of which is rusting and some of which reveals areas deeply etched with a grinding tool.
This is one of Caro’s later ‘table pieces’, a long series of small, abstract sculptures on a human scale, designed neither for a plinth nor to stand on the ground, but to be raised up and placed on table-like surfaces over which they hang and enter the viewer’s space. To ensure that this work is correctly positioned, the two spanners have been bent at right angles in the centre and ground underneath so that they fit neatly over the edge of any surface and thus keep the main steel part horizontal, and the two uprights in place. The strong sense of horizontality comes from the central positioning of a long steel scrap, rather like a pair of outstretched arms, one of which is so thin in the middle that it looks as if it has been stretched taut. These arms are attached at one end to the spanners and at the other to two truncheon-shaped pieces of steel and a metal rod twisted into knots. The effect is like hands at work, holding down paper, grasping a pen and writing with great concentration. It is a sculpture which conveys the bodily sensation and necessary balance for the act of writing by hand. From whatever angle it is seen, spaces and solids maintain a satisfying and intricate equilibrium, and the whole has a delicate balance, only the two uprights firmly standing on the table top, and the other elements, such as the horizontal piece of steel, just touching it with one corner.
Like his much larger free-standing sculpture of the 1960s and 70s, notably Sun Feast of the same year (reproduced in Moorhouse, p.25), there is a strong sense of lateral extension, of space at the heart of the work, and suspension slightly above the ground. Writing Piece ‘Other’ is composed of linear elements whose curving sweep evokes the process and appearance of writing. The result is like a sheet of calligraphy whose fluent strokes are made of solid steel.
Caro trained in sculpture at the then highly traditional Royal Academy Schools in London (1947–52) and was part-time assistant to Henry Moore during the years 1951–3. From 1953 he taught at St Martin’s School of Art, and on his first trip to the United States in 1959 he met the sculptor David Smith (1906–65). He visited Smith again in 1963 and acquired his stock of metal after Smith’s sudden death. It was from Smith that Caro was inspired to weld, and to use discarded metal parts, so that their sculptural vocabulary was for a time similar, but Caro’s use of this material, and the overall configuration of his sculptures, is very different from Smith’s.
There are other table sculptures by Caro in Tate, of which Table Piece CCLXVI 1975 (T07587) is most closely related to L02547 in its horizontality, open form and freely-flowing line.
Paul Moorhouse (ed.), Anthony Caro, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2005.
Ian Barker, Anthony Caro: Quest for the New Sculpture, Aldershot and Burlington, Vermont 2004.