Review of Anthony Caro Retrospective at Museo Correr, Venice

Review of Anthony Caro Retrospective at Museo Correr, Venice

The first major retrospective in Italy of the works by sculptor Anthony Caro could not come at a better time. The Museo Correr, located off the iconic saint Mark’s square, assures the artist the attention of anyone in Venice this summer – not just those there for the Biennale. This brings into account a benign parallel to the works going on in conjunction with the biennale, which superficially challenges the artistic merits that have come to raise Caro to the level of a living legend.

The museum itself conceives an exceedingly sophisticated grandiosity, which seems to rather suit Caro’s own exploration into the power and meaning of shape and form at its purist level. This is a fact that is easily connected with as a viewer, considering the exhibition is largely empty. At no other point is this, perhaps, most obligatory as when first stepping into the exhibition. Cadence (1968-72) arrogantly teases the viewer with its peculiar matt mustard colour and arbitrary collisions of shape. The matt aesthetic, combined with its monotonous veneer, creates an unusual amount of tension within its environment. With no figurative or architectural reference point to begin, the work feels alien – almost as if it had mutated from something inside the room and was simply left.

A corridor linking the entrance and the rest of the alcove spaces is used as a buffer to present the stepping stones of Caro’s thought practice. A series of experimental paintings are enchantingly displayed in a row either side of the viewer, offering glimpses of the figurative works that captured and propelled Caro forward, as well as hauntingly echoing the contemplative figurative works of his mentor Henry Moore. What is most prolific about these works, however, is their diversity compared to the other works on show. Each painting harbours a magnetic sense of intimacy and primal visual attraction portrayed by rhythmic rawness, not too dissimilar to that of Robert Motherwell and Picasso.

This intimacy, however, is lost through the remainder of the exhibition, but not for fault, as the remaining pieces reside in alcoves with no more that two works in each, all linked by a narrow passage, wall length windows softly emulating the strict and structured properties of the work. The light also becomes a factor as the shadows cast upon the works by their industrial contours change according to the time of day. Hopscotch (1962) is an assortment of steel tubing linked at points by partial panels of metal. Like the name suggests, it is a maze of negative space which fractures the space physically but also at the Museo Correr, with its evolving shadows as time passes. No more information is needed – or even given – to the viewer, it simply exists, providing a platform for the audience to extract and cultivate each work’s aesthetic and conceptual creditability and worth. This brings the relevance of the paintings into context with rest of the exhibition: Caro extracted and cultivated from his teaching by Moore and used them as a platform to create his own career. And this exhibition, if but nothing else, proves piece after piece that Caro is definitely a living legend, to be flourished amongst the likes of Moore and Serra.

William Davie

Anthony Caro, 1 June until 27 October, Museo Correr, San Marco, 52, 30124 Venice.


1. Anthony Caro, Orangerie, 1969. Courtesy Museo Correr
2. Anthony Caro, Venetian, 2011-2012. Courtesy Museo Correr
3. Anthony Caro, Garland, 1970. Courtesy Museo Correr