This autumn, Tony Cragg presents a powerful new selection of works at Lisson Gallery (29 Bell Street) in London. This is Cragg’s twelfth exhibition at Lisson Gallery, representing more than three decades of collaboration since his groundbreaking first show in 1979.
Cragg’s work is based first on observation and understanding of the natural and material worlds, then an intuitive and exuberant engagement with the possibilities of volume, material, scale and image. He continues to find endless possibilities of formal and associative significance in two broad bodies of work: Early Forms, in which vessels are turned into and around themselves to create delightful paradoxes of containment; and Rational Beings, where human profiles provide the sometimes evident, sometimes deeply hidden source material for wild improvisations on natural processes and the forms they give rise to.
New Early Form works in the show, cast in bronze, demonstrate an ever greater boldness and formal assurance. The core of the exhibition however is dedicated to dramatic extensions of the Rational Beings methodology. Cragg explores the tension between dynamic form and surface by using materials with widely varying qualities of mass and surface, including richly veined marble, vibrantly patinated bronze, cast iron and wood. His invention is most notable in the way these new works are both more complex in their detail, and at the same time presented within strong ‘whole’ forms such as spheres or discs. The exhibition contains work on both intimate and larger sculptural scales, provoking different engagements with the viewer. Most dramatic is a new, never previously shown wooden work on a monumental scale nearly four metres wide and over three metres tall.
Tony Cragg’s restless, ambitious search for new meanings in the fabric of the world has its core in studio practice, from the intimate discipline of drawing to the material experimentation and large-scale fabrication carried out with his longstanding studio team in Wuppertal in Germany, where the artist has been based since 1977. The past two years have also seen important new presentations of recent and older work at the Louvre in Paris, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, and CAFA Museum in Beijing followed by a tour to other Chinese venues in Chengdu and Shanghai. Most recently, he presented major sculptures in Exhibition Road, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum in a project curated by Cass Sculpture Foundation.
Cragg also devotes much of his considerable energy to his sculpture park, Waldfrieden, in Wuppertal and to his important work as Director of the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf, Germany’s leading and historic school of art.