Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Works on Paper
On ViewThe Gallery At Windsor
Sculptures and Works on Paper
February 25–May 19, 2023
Vero Beach, FL
I patiently waited at the Gallery at Windsor, anticipating Tony Cragg’s swirling sculptures to lift off from their pedestals. Alas! They never did. Was I surprised? You betcha. After years of seeing Cragg’s art, I only recently grasped that many of his works are studies in arrested motion. If there was a face-off, say, between a space filled with static mobiles by Alexander Calder and a room featuring columnar bronzes by Cragg, the Englishman’s dynamos would seem more animated than the American’s stilled geometric shapes.
Critics often mention the faces, somewhat concealed in Cragg’s sculptural series “Rational Beings” such as Stack and Level Head, both from 2015, and on view in Florida. Other writers have referred to Cragg’s work as combining images that are semi-abstract as well as semi-figurative, but I was more taken by the way his sculpture evokes landscapes. Decades ago, an art editor explained to me that verticals suggest figures and horizontals reference landscapes. Cragg upends this notion. His tall bronzes look windswept. You practically believe the crevices on his primordial-like sculptures were formed by harsh elements that raged as they sat on distant tundras and other barren sites. As for the heads, they resemble the sort of faces you see in passing clouds.
There are also sculptures by Cragg that call to mind insects and unfamiliar critters. Take Processor, a small, mesmerizing glass piece from 2022. A fluid, striped agglomeration sits atop three rickety, transparent legs. Or consider Spring (2015), a dark bronze composed of cascading arcs. It could easily be put on display in a natural history museum.
Integers, a bronze from 2023, is perhaps the most surprising sculpture in the exhibition. Made during the pandemic, it has humanoid vibes. It’s torso-like, except the most recognizable aspect of Integers is the rear of a figure, not its frontality. If you told me that this Cragg was an unusual Aristide Maillol or even a Gaston Lachaise, I would believe you. The bronze is full-bodied and decidedly volumetric. Will we see more pieces in this vein in the future? I hope so.
Possessing a well-honed, singular formal intelligence, Cragg breathes life into vibrant entities. He masterfully sets in motion rhythmic passages. Repetitive waves wash across his sculptures and enliven his compelling surfaces. His art is fluid, not unchangeable. His unusual volumes border on the eccentric. Then, there’s the matter of the heights and widths of his sculptures. He keeps them in a range where they are personable, neither too large nor too small.
For someone who became known more than four decades ago for wallworks consisting of brightly colored, found plastic fragments, Cragg uses a palette that has become decidedly subdued. With few exceptions—monochromatic bronzes finished off with red and blue patinas, for example—his surfaces now tend to be dark. Instead of stopping us in our tracks with flat planes of boldly hued plastic, Cragg confronts us with their opposite. Movement trumps color. And, with his series of Integers, volumes have begun to command our attention. Tony Cragg still has lots of tricks up his sleeve.