Made for the Nasher Sculpture Center
The clean, sparse, naturally-lit sculpture center in Dallas, created by the 20th C. collectors Raymond and Patsy Nasher, shows Tony Cragg’s 21st C. sculpture like they were made for each other.
Cragg’s work is slick and purposeful, but so detailed it could only have been made by Computer-Aided somethings: like software and routers, cutters and pointing-up devices. In another age, I would have thought they were assembled by some kind of aesthetically-careful superior being(s).
His forms blow up the complexity in small detail over big surfaces. They demand attention. We think we see Washington’s face on the black one, and so hold up a quarter to compare. The familiar face from our coin is there, but it looks twisted and morphed into abstractions of itself.
The spaces between these complex forms frames the woman in the ridiculous heels. All three stacking themselves taller. The piece in the entry way, the top photograph, has small intricate openings that let a viewer peak to the outside, and through a window in the fence, to the street. The complexity of the layers of our vision cannot be ignored when we’re in the presence of this elaborate set of forms. We don’t have to pay our phone bill with these pieces of technology, so they are instructive friends rather than our ultra-logical opponents.
On the lower floor are two sculptures where narrative objects get piled together in what could be a messy heap, but instead become uniformly textured – like nice grass – and painfully-complex – like the rest of his work. Physical sculpture like these are so full real, tactile, and non-virtual, there presence in a time when most of what we experience is virtual, is a sensory reminder of how real shape feels. The plunger colored sculpture in the foreground of this picture calls out to be touched. Beyond it, another sculpture draws me closer while looking pokey and dangerous. But, I just have to get up close and discover what’s making this thing look like a giant briar bush or rather a boat covered with thorns. Covering this boat like thing are hundreds of screw-in hooks, many repetitions of the same object in many of its iterations of sizes, color and similarly-functional shape. The object as a whole, and each hook, come out and back at the same time.
Beyond that piece is a white form that looks from this picture like a drunken nun. Up close, the surface shines, and is covered with dice. The place where the smooth surface of the die splits wide from its neighboring die as each follow the couture of the form makes canyons that flow making lines that delineate the form. The number of dots on a die mean nothing. Likewise, his drawings are made with a line | or a circle O whose meaning it lost. Ones or zeros we know can do something like programming, but these are infinite varieties of a hand-made 1 and hand-drawn 0. Push, pull.
I hear 3-D is the new New.