Galerie Templon’s latest exhibition establishes a 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.