Galerie Templon’s latest exhibition explores the fascinating dialogue between Anthony Caro (1924-2013), pioneer of abstract sculpture, and Jules Olitski (1922-2007), master of Colour Field painting. With a collection of works from the 1970s and ’80s, the new exhibition celebrates the unique creative friendship between the British sculptor and the American painter of Russian descent, companions for close to 50 years.
Anthony Caro and Jules Olitski both paved the way to a new form of abstract art. Right from the early 1960s, they stood out for their radical experiments, tirelessly exploring new methods and materials. The exhibition highlights the capacity for innovation of two artists on a quest to redefine their medium, with their friendship as one of the catalysts. In 1963, after years of mutual admiration, Anthony Caro and Jules Olitski met and started exchanging letters, ideas and artworks. The sculptures and paintings of the 1970s and ’80s reflect their research on the fundamentals of surface, space and shape, the notions of density and lightness.
In Sir Anthony Caro’s view: ‘Sculpture sits midway between painting and architecture, particularly abstract sculpture. It lies in between. We have to find this place, in between.’ In the 1970s and ’80s, he focused mainly on steel, oxidised metal, the use and forms of machines and industrial elements. As for Jules Olitski, after perfecting a spray-painting technique for laying colour onto his canvases, in the 1970s he went on to develop new techniques, spreading colours with a cloth or scraper or laying them on with a roller to create thickly structured surfaces. In his work during the 1980s, the artist put the emphasis on surfaces and materials. He kept following the idea he expressed to Caro as soon as 1964: ‘Well, Tony, what I would like in my painting is simply a spray of color that hangs like a cloud, but does not lose its shape.’
Anthony Caro and Jules Olitski reinvented the standards for sculpting and painting, underpinned by the powerful stimulation provided by their friendship. Successors to the first New York School generation, they went on to inspire many generations of abstract artists. Galerie Templon, which represents the two estates in France, worked with the artists during their lifetime, starting in the 1970s with Olitski and during the final decade of Sir Anthony Caro’s life.
Sir Anthony Caro was born in 1924, knighted in 1987 and died in 2013. After studying under Henry Moore, he embarked on a long career marked by an unflagging commitment to establishing a dialogue between the arts, from his passionate pursuit of abstraction to his evolution towards a more narrative line. His work has recently been featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2011), Chatsworth and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the UK (2012), Museo Correr in Venice (2013), Musée Würth de Erstein (2015) at the Bourbourg CIAC, and Musée des Augustins in Hazebrouk, Musée Benoît-De-Puydt in Bailleul and Musée Van Buuren in Brussels (2017). In 2018, his work was exhibited at the São Paulo Art Biennial and Peterborough Museum. His work is present in major public collections such as at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, Museum of Modern Art in New York, British Museum in London and Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.
Born in 1922 in Soviet Russia, Jules Olitski emigrated to the USA at a very young age and went on to study at New York University. He was a prominent figure in Colour Field painting, pioneered by the likes of Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still and championed by American critic Clement Greenberg. Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis formed the second generation of Colour Field artists, more focused on ‘self-critical painting’ and their own characteristics (Ann Hindry). Jules Olitski represented the United States at the 1966 Venice Biennale, and in 1969 was the first living artist to exhibit his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Relatively unknown in France despite three exhibitions at Galerie Templon in the 1980s, his work has been shown in many leading museums: the San Francisco Museum of Art (1967), Whitney Museum of American Art (1971), Portland Museum of Art (1998) and Smithsonian American Art Museum (2008). It is also present in major museum collections such as at the Museum of Modern Art and Met Museum (New York), National Gallery of Art (Washington) and Tate Modern (London). Jules Olitski died in 2007.
ANTHONY CARO/JULES OLITSKI The 70’s – 80’s runs from 16th March to 11th May, 2019 at the Galerie Templon, 28 rue du Grenier, Saint Lazare, Paris.