Press Release

Tra-la-la: British Sculpture in the Sixties

Tra-la-la: British Sculpture in the Sixties: Press related to past exhibition.

Tate Britain  Duveen Galleries
25 March – 27 August 2002

The new display in the Duveen sculpture galleries at Tate Britain looks at the new approaches to sculpture taken by a number of artists in Britain during the 1960s.

Tra-la-la, named after a sculpture by Philip King, is part of Collections 2002–1500: BP Displays at Tate Britain.

In 1963 Anthony Caro exhibited new works, including Early One Morning, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. The art critic Michael Fried called them ‘radically abstract’, and the idea of sculpture taking on architectural qualities, making use of bright colours, and standing directly on the floor instead of on a plinth, was indeed radical. This new formal language was partly a reaction to the austerity of work in the previous decade, and partly a response to developments in abstract painting both here and in the United States. Caro was not alone in his innovations: William Turnbull was also moving towards a more simplified abstract style of sculpture and had also abandoned the plinth.

A younger generation, including David Annesley, Michael Bolus, Philip King, Tim Scott, William Tucker and Isaac Witkin studied under Caro at St Martin’s School of Art and exhibited in the ‘New Generation’ exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1965. Encouraged by Caro’s practice, they rejected traditional methods and constructed sculptures using a range of new materials: not just steel but also plastic and fibreglass. The ‘New Generation’ sculptors liked strong colour, and made works that related to human proportions.

Despite a shared sensibility these artists had distinctive personal styles: Turnbull preferred minimal geometric forms, as exemplified by 3/4/5 1966; David Annesley used sheet metal to create sculptures with strong linear profiles, as in Swing Low 1964; Tim Scott experimented with different plastics and bold shapes in intense colour, as in Quadreme 1966. The sculptures were light-hearted, bold and witty, some hinting at an interest in Surrealism, not simply in the way they used colour and form, but also through their choice of titles, such as Tra-la-la 1963.

This display has been devised by curators Mary Horlock and Chris Stephens, curators at Tate Britain.

Open every day 10.00 – 17.50