Sir Anthony Caro profoundly influenced a younger generation of sculptors, several of whom are represented at Storm King, when he taught at Saint Martin’s School of Art, London, in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1960 he began working with welded metal immediately following a six-week, grant-funded trip to the United States and Mexico, where he encountered works by David Smith and Kenneth Noland, and was influenced by Clement Greenberg’s art criticism. Upon returning to London Caro promptly bought his own welding equipment and began to create abstract, welded steel sculptures made from industrial materials.
Reel and Bitter Sky represent two distinct stylistic periods in Caro’s sculpture. Works dating from the 1960s, such as the low-slung, curvilinear Reel, are horizontally oriented, painted a uniform color, and placed directly on the ground, tending to appear to float or hover. Bitter Sky, made almost two decades later, is characteristically darker, vertical, planar, and more architectonic. Bolts and seams joining the assemblage parts remain clearly visible; integrated seamlessly into the whole structure, they are not “hidden” as in the earlier work. Bitter Sky reflects Caro’s renewed interest in the heritage of Cubism, with its overlapping planes and volumes and explorations of volume and mass in space—precisely those issues that he rejected two decades earlier in works such as Reel.