Tony Cragg: New Sculptures
Lisson Gallery, Shanghai
November 06, 2021 – January 15, 2022
Lisson Gallery is delighted to present Tony Cragg‘s first solo exhibition in China following his major presentation at CAFA Art Museum in Beijing in 2012. The internationally acclaimed artist will present a selection of recent works in bronze and stone. These sculptures-composite, polymorphic entities that are stacked and layered like geological plates-highlight the distinguished practice of an artist who has been hugely influential since the 1970s. This is Cragg’s sixteenth exhibition with Lisson Gallery, many decades after his groundbreaking first show on Bell Street, London in 1979, but his first in Shanghai.
The exhibition features seven sculptures throughout the gallery, created between 2018 and 2021, that demonstrate Cragg’s enduring interest in the dynamic power of matter to assume form. At the core of Cragg’s work is an acute observation and understanding of the world around us, a process of continual enquiry into reshaping what we see, with each work an entirely unique experimentation into the possibilities of material, scale and volume. The selection of works in this exhibition illustrates the ambition and variety of Cragg’s sculptural explorations, producing a remarkably complex structure from a fundamentally simple concept, such as a natural form or a human profile. Cragg has stated: “Making sculpture involves not only changing the form and meaning of the material but also oneself.” Where Cragg has previously created work out of marble, glass, sandstone, fiberglass, wood, cast and constructed steel, as well as many from found plastic objects, this presentation focuses on sculptures created from bronze, and one new work-Masks (2021)-from stone.
For his first exhibition in Shanghai, Cragg presents a series of works that express the resonance of stacking in his practice, a technique he has been exploring since the 1970s. These works show how a solid, cohesive form can be created from intimate, disparate parts, with each deriving from an initial drawing. In the gallery space, there is a discourse between Cragg’s classical vocabulary and his contemporary forms, offering an opportunity to assess different forms and finishes, such as in Pair (2018), consisting of multi-piled wooden objects cast in bronze. Despite the solidity of the material, the work exudes dynamism and movement; as curator and art historian Dr Jon Wood once commented, “they remind us that all is ultimately moving, seething and active in the world and that nothing is really static.” Similarly, It is, It isn’t (2020) creates an illusion between the corporeal and the non-corporeal, with a sense of profile and physical presence as the audience’s gaze traces the forms of the sculpture. Senders (2019), In Frequencies (2020) and Mean Average (2021) also present recurrent forms and materials that Cragg returns to in his practice, connecting these recent works with his history as an artist.
Cragg‘s practice of layering forms also crucially derives from his geological and environmental concerns, spanning from the sculptural Stack he presented at Tate in 1975 and Minster (1987) at Hayward Gallery that year, which both employ a multitude of miscellaneous, recycled and geological materials. Stacked with numerous turquoise layers, Untitled (2020) speaks to Cragg’s early experiences working in a chemistry laboratory after his graduation in the late 1960s, and traces back to these early works utilising found plastic objects to reimagine forms in his own language.
The presentation also offers the opportunity to imagine these works in larger scale-as monumental outdoor sculptures-as he has so often exhibited, from Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2017) to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, UK (19 May – 26 September 2021). In September 2008, Cragg even opened his own outdoor sculpture park and gallery, Waldfrieden, in his home town of Wuppertal, Germany, near his studio.
Alongside the exhibition, “Drawing as Continuum” is currently on view at the Haus am Waldsee, Berlin until 9 January 2022, providing a detailed overview of the artist’s drawings and graphic works from the early 1990s to the present day.
An essay by Dr. Jon Wood, a curator and art historian who has written extensively on modern and contemporary sculpture, will accompany the show.