Tony Cragg A Rare Category Of Objects
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
WF4 4JX United Kingdom
Yorkshire Sculpture Park presents the most extensive UK exhibition to date by leading sculptor Tony Cragg in the Underground Gallery and open air. New sculptures, works on paper and pieces drawn from nearly five decades of Cragg’s practice will survey and demonstrate the artist’s pioneering and continued mastery of materials.
A ‘radical materialist’, Cragg defines sculpture as a ‘rare category of objects’, and takes a taxonomic approach to his own practice, something reflected in the exhibition. The wit and will to analyse the properties of all of the planet’s resources and use them to make new things is unique to human beings, along with the intuition to sort, order and categorise the things that exist and that we bring into existence. The exhibition begins at the entrance to the Park with the magnificent bronze sculpture Caldera (2008), nearly five metres in height and set against the extraordinary landscape setting of the Bretton Estate.
Cragg’s extraordinary career has its roots in a fascination for, and exploration of, the possibilities of the material world, which he considers to be ‘the huge storeroom [in which] lie the keys to essential processes and explanations of our existence’. Cragg’s artistic practice developed from drawings he made to document experiments whilst working as a lab technician at the National Rubber Producers Research Association (1966–68). He went on to study at London’s Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal College of Art and during two summer vacations worked nightshifts in a foundry that manufactured components for engines. The combination of art and the experience of the physical transformation of materials through industrial processes is the cornerstone of Cragg’s practice.
His is a systematic approach but, as is exemplified in his major series Rational Beings, which is substantially represented in this exhibition, it is one that acknowledges the alchemical transformation of particular configurations of materials into objects with meaning beyond the sum of their parts. On a material level, for example, the human body is just a unique and fleeting combination of particular atoms from the universe. The artist believes that ‘it could be said that the most fantastic material is the human neuron’, leading Cragg to consider his sculptures as being ideas made manifest.
From the small scale to the monumental, Cragg’s prolific practice is the outcome of a constantly questioning and experimental symbiotic process of thought and manual making, which always starts with drawing. This relationship is articulated in the Underground Gallery through a selection of drawings and sculpture alongside each other, allowing visitors to trace the development of ideas into physical form.