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Table Piece C91

steel and sheet steel, rusted and varnished
19 5/8 in. x 42 in. x 26 in. (49.85 cm x 106.68 cm x 66.04 cm)
Currier Funds, Rosmond deKalb Fund and Gift of G. Peabody Gardner III, 1982.41

Anthony Caro



Table Piece C91 by Anthony Caro is made from many jagged components of rusted and varnished steel, and sheet steel. The steel elements are burnt umber in color and exhibit the markings of tools and wear in the form of scratches and abrasions on their surface. The joins between the different pieces are visible and deliberately untidy. The points of contact between the sculpture and the surface upon which it rests are hard to distinguish. The elements overlap and are welded together in a configuration that changes depending on the position of the viewer. From several angles, the piece suggests an upside-down triangle. The combination of rough material, neutral color, and abstract form has a primordial quality. The space between the various members becomes as much a part of the materiality of the work as the steel itself.

Context and Analysis

Table Piece C91, like most of Caro’s work, is an abstract, three-dimensional collage created with industrial materials. Caro places space at the center of his sculptures, subverting the traditionally solid sculptural object. His works can be described as “drawings in space.” The artist has deliberately left the welding at the joints visible, to remind the viewer of the intricacies of the making. This sign of the artist’s labor contrasts strongly with the mechanical anonymity of the steel.

After studying engineering and sculpture, Caro became a part-time assistant to the British sculptor Henry Moore between 1951 and 1953. In London in 1959 Caro met the American critic Clement Greenberg, who was an important critic in the postwar years, advocating abstraction and a focus on medium-specificity, and championing American artists whom he believed met his exacting criteria, such as Jackson Pollock and David Smith.1 As a direct result of his encounter with Greenberg and the American avant-garde, Caro dispensed with the use of the traditional plinth in his sculpture and embraced contemporary trends in abstraction. 2

Table Piece C91 belongs to a group of serially numbered “table sculptures” that Caro began making in 1966, following a conversation with the art historian and critic Michael Fried. 3A disciple of Greenberg, Fried lauded Caro’s work as the epitome of an “irreducible modernism.” 4 Caro’s work of this period was scaled down from larger floor and wall pieces. To help the artist establish his smaller works as intentionally different in size, and not models (called maquettes) or experiments, Fried suggested that Caro site them on a table and, in the earliest in the series, make the furniture edge an integral component of their placement. 5 The artist sometimes included anthropomorphic referents, such as tool handles and other found objects, in these table pieces to emphasize their scale and to suggest a relationship to the body of the viewer. 6


The nontraditional use of space as a core component of Caro’s sculpture—treating “negative” as “positive,” and vice versa—is shared by other artists who worked in three dimensions in the mid-1900s. Caro and his contemporaries also continued the legacy of experimentation that avant-garde schools such as the Bauhaus had begun before World War II. Also in the Currier collection is Construction No. 11, Red, Black and Yellow (1950) by American abstract sculptor José de Rivera (Currier, 1986.2 ). Like Caro in his later works, Rivera used mechanical materials and abstract forms to advocate a new, modern art in three dimensions.

Written by Michelle Millar Fisher

1Caro was interested in David Smith’s use of industrial materials and the way he worked in series. See Bryant 2004, 49.

2 In 1963 Caro had a solo exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery, where he presented abstract painted-steel sculptures with no plinths. This was radical in terms of his own artistic practice, although some other sculptors, such as Alberto Giacometti, had already abandoned the pedestal (see Woman with Her Throat Cut, 1932).

3 Caro made over 300 table sculptures between 1966 and 1979, and continued this type of sculpture series into the 1990s.

4 He contrasted this to the work of Minimalist artists such as Donald Judd who, Fried contended, muddied the waters of modern art by inviting the viewer to add to th work through experiencing it. See’s-“art-and-objecthood”/

5 Fried also notes that as the table sculptures often run below the edge of the table, the works could not be transposed to the floor or a plinth, and were expressly made for the table. Fried likens this to the paintings of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, whose still-lifes of the 1700s often included an element that dropped below the table edge to highlight the scale of the assembled elements within the composition.

6 Caro incorporated handles into his work to suggest the intentional nature of the smaller scale of the table sculptures. A precedent for this is Pablo Picasso’s Glass of Absinthe (1914), which incorporates a silver sugar strainer, something “graspable.” See Michael Fried’s essay in Caro 1973, 32.


Bryant, Julius. Anthony Caro: A Life in Sculpture. London: Merrell, 2004.

Caro, Anthony. Anthony Caro: A Special Showing of the New Table Pieces. New York: André Emmerich Gallery, 1973.

Caro, Anthony. Anthony Caro: Table and Related Sculptures 1966–1978. Braunschweig: Kunstverein, 1979.

Caro, Anthony, and Dieter Blume. Anthony Caro: Catalogue Raisonné. Cologne: Galerie Wentzel, 1981.

Caro, Anthony, and John Goldblatt. Anthony Caro, Bronze Screens and Table Sculptures. New York: André Emmerich Gallery, 1982.

Fried, Michael. “Art and Objecthood.” Artforum 5, no. 10 (June 1967): 12–23.
Moorhouse, Paul, Michael Fried, Dave Hickey, and Anthony Caro. Anthony Caro. London: Tate Publications, 2005.

Reid, Mary, and Anthony Caro. Anthony Caro: Drawing in Space. Farnham, UK: Lund Humphries, 2009.

Rubin, William, and Anthony Caro. Anthony Caro. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1975.

Tate Gallery, London. “Anthony Caro: Room 5: Table Sculpture: 1966–69.” (accessed August 1, 2013).

Westley, Smith H. F., and Anthony Caro. Anthony Caro: Small Sculptures. Farnham, UK: Lund Humphries, 2010.

1986 Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME, "Masterpieces from the Currier Gallery of Art." Sept. 11 - Nov. 2.

2008 Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH, "In the Artist's Words."

Harcus Krakow Gallery, Boston, MA
Purchased by George Peabody Gardner III, 1980
Partial gift and purchase, Currier Gallery of Art, 1982

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