Tony Cragg at the YSP

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The latest main exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a major retrospective of the work of Tony Cragg – a British sculptor who lives and works in Germany. It includes 14 large sculptures (made within the last 10 years) displayed in the grounds, 35 indoors in the Underground and Garden Galleries and 80 works on paper.

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We drove over earlier this week, braving the long term roadworks on the M60, to take a look and were well impressed!

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Tony Cragg was born in Liverpool and initially worked as a lab technician for the National Rubber Producers’ Research Association. He enrolled on the foundation course at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design in Cheltenham in 1969 when he was 20 and then went on to study at Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal College of Art. He won the Turner Prize in 1988 and represented Britain at the 42nd Venice Biennale in the same year.

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Initially he was associated with the Land Art movements, concentrating on site-specific installations of found objects and discarded materials. This early part of his career wasn’t particularly covered in the exhibition other than a small selection of works and photographs  in the Project Space in the Underground Gallery, including this one

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New Figuration (1985) – made from plastic objects washed up along the Rhine.

This is another relatively early work, in this case made using heavy-duty metal industrial components

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Minster (1992)

The majority of the larger sculptures on display, however are from his later Early Forms and Rational Beings series.

Cragg started creating his Early Forms in the late 1980s.  They’re based on various types of vessels, such as laboratory test tubes and flasks, jars and bottles which he has “morphed” to form abstract shapes and forms, but with an element of the form of the original object still present. They rather reminded me of plastic or rubber mouldings where the production process has gone wrong resulting in a deformed shape. I’ve seen similar mishaped mouldings when I’ve been visiting rubber and plastic production sites during my work.  No doubt Cragg saw similar things when he working in the rubber industry which gave him some inspiration for this series.

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The starting point for the works in Cragg’s Rational Beings series are profiles of the human face or, sometimes, body. But they’re overlaid and manipulated so that it’s initially difficult to make out the origin of the complex forms he creates from overlaid discs of wood or other materials, in some cases left as wooden sculptures, in other cases casting them in bronze or other metals.

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Look closely from the right angle and the profiles of human faces or figures can be seen

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Other works included examples from his Hedge series

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and a couple of sculptures from the more recent Skull series

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This sculpture has it’s surface entirely covered with dice

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and this one, the surface covered with letters, is reminiscent of the work of Jaume Plensa

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Manipulation (2008)

The Garden Gallery displays concentrated on smaller sculptures and works on paper

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including pictures of test tubes inspired by his time working as a lab technician.

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I particularly liked a couple of smaller sculptures made from glass

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This is a superb exhibition and will definitely benefit from a second visit. We’re already planning one for July!

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8 thoughts on “Tony Cragg at the YSP

    • Thanks Lynn.
      With many of the Rational Beings sculptures the faces aren’t always apparent at first. But once you get in s position to spot one it becomes easier to see others.

  1. Pingback: Tony Cragg (and others) at the YSP – Beating The Bounds

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