Visual Arts

Life's Lumps

British sculptor Anthony Caro is most famous for the lean, linear metal abstractions he made in the 1960s, playful pieces that seemed to float in the air.

So it's surprising to see the lumpy, earthbound assemblages of clay and steel in "A Life in Sculpture: The Kenwood Series," an exhibition of work done last year by the artist to commemorate his 80th birthday that's making three stops in the U.S. this year. The 14 sculptures depict recognizable domestic objects like tables, chairs, a figure, and (gulp!) fruit. The work -- dark, huddled, and backward-looking -- is as opposite his earlier work as it's possible to be.

In Banker's Table, a Frisbee-size, shiny steel coin crushes a bed of tubular shapes atop an off-kilter steel end table that looks as if it might tumble onto the ground at any moment. There is monumental weight here, but none of a monument's certainty. A four-foot-long rectangular piece titled Shelter sprawls on the ground, resembling a rusting pickup truck toolbox that burst open when it fell out of the bed of a survivalist's F-150.

The Kenwood Series is depressing and a bit baffling, and maybe that's the point. According to Caro, old age will pluck you from the sky and slam your visions of newness to the ground, forcing you into a smaller world where the past and the present are all you can see. You'll stop welding soaring steel abstractions and start making clay apples.

Maybe this is why Roger Daltrey wanted to die before he got old. It's a hell of a fall.

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Leanne Potts