Tony Cragg (4 stars)

This article is from 2011

Tony Cragg

Stunning showcase of sculptor’s poetic, monolithic output

From Scouse lab technician to director of Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf, Cragg’s prolific artistic journey has been one of inspiration and rejection, absorption and a will to move beyond. While the works of Max Ernst, Richard Long, Joseph Beuys and Henry Moore may have been staging points in Cragg’s trajectory his separation from the ‘ego sculptors’ he is most often parcelled in with – Richard Deacon, Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor could not be more acute.

With a few notable exceptions this excellent exhibition presents the majority of Cragg’s poetic and monolithic output so far. Cragg’s giddy sketches guide the visitor in like a skipper to dolphins and then you are there. ‘Wild Relatives’ shimmers like an alabaster cloud, ‘In Camera’ is all pottery school Ernst, ‘Constructor’ is part circus mirror/part sea lion, while ‘Hollow Columns’ is the first of many anthills that look good enough to lick. The modus operandi is simple – nature recast in bronze, wood, stainless steel, kevlar or fibreglass – sometimes vulgarised, always surreal.

Things begin to shudder with primordial intent. The stunning ‘Distant Cousin’ is a Venus fly trap re-imagined by some Dadaist Dr Moreau; ‘Outspan’, ‘McCormack’ and ‘Declination’ are nuclear bloated clams as envisioned by the futurists. ‘Forminifera’ is the giant wasp’s nest Patrick Caulfield never designed. Only the wood and hook amateurism of ‘Under the Skin’ disappoints, but that’s small beer in a brewery of wonder.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 624 6200, until 6 Nov, £7 (£5).

Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Drawings

  • 4 stars

Focusing mainly on work from the last ten years but including some earlier pieces too, this retrospective of the work of British sculptor Tony Cragg could serve to bolster the UK profile of the artist, whose German base has led to his work not receiving the attention lavished on contemporaries like Anish Kapoor and Antony…

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