British sculptor Tony Cragg has brought a series of 25 new sculptural works to Thaddaeus Ropac’s Paris Pantin Gallery, showcasing the artist’s impressive range of skills in steel, bronze, wood, fiberglass, and even stone. The show, which capitalizes on his major exhibition at St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum, underscores Cragg’s relentless material and sculptural explorations, and offers a continuation of more recent work to counterpoint the more historical thread found in the Russian exhibition.
Originally influenced by English Land Art and performance work, Cragg’s sinuous, twisting objects feel suspended somewhere between concrete subjects and imaginative abstraction, hinting at evocative forms while withholding any immediate sense of recognition or identification. A self-affirmed “materialist,” his explorations are informed by his process, by the literal working-through of his elements to reach their final stage. Sheets of bronze are folded and twisted into hulking masses of material, while their wooden counterparts cluster together as if carved and planed separately before being fixed into conversation, lent an additional sense of movement and energy by the grain of the wood itself, as it flows across the sculpture.
Spread across the Pantin gallery, Cragg’s brightly colored works appear as individual narrative exercises, each piece showcasing the artist’s unique interactions and decisions in the intricate, shifting surfaces of each work. In one work, Stroke, his piece surges up and outwards from a central base, with twists to its column that recall that compressed automobile bodies of John Chamberlain, while simultaneously withdrawing from any immediate physical signifiers that would more expressly root these works’ influences. Elsewhere, an untitled piece pushes a more smooth, elegant series of curves, disrupted by sudden jagged breaks and ruptures in their form, as if the artist was actively trying to work against immediate identification of his subject.
Cragg’s methods of reinterpretation and movement in space manifest themselves throughout the show as a series of dialogues on space itself, as if exploring his work’s capacity to meet the space around it halfway, often inviting momentary experiences of depth or continuity to play against the work’s sheer faces and fragmented inflections. This experience of sculpture, of movement and flow suspended in time, makes Cragg’s work here particularly intriguing.
The exhibition is on view through June 30th.
— D. Creahan
Tony Cragg at Thaddaeus Ropac [Exhibition Site]