Non-Utilitarian Use of Materials

Sculptures are rare. It’s not as if you walk down pavements dodging sculptures, do you? Sculpture is a rare use of materials. We’re in the industrial north here, where billions of tons of material are being used to make cars, pottery, books, textiles, chemicals – but how many kilos of sculpture are made today? The non-utilitarian use of material is important.

—–Tony Cragg

Runner, Tony Cragg, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans
Runner, Tony Cragg, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans

I have always been a fan of the sculptor Tony Cragg.

Especially his work, Stevenson, in the Dallas Museum of Art.

Tony Cragg, Stevenson, Dallas Museum of Art (click to enlarge)

… Oh, and the sculpture I discovered along the street in Dallas.

Tony Cragg’s “Line of Thought” Dallas, Texas
Tony Cragg’s “Line of Thought” Dallas, Texas

… Or the fantastic exhibition at the DMA when I was in need of uplift.

Exhibition of Cragg sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art

I was very happy to find his work, Runner, a large work in polished stainless steel, along the walkway in the new expansion of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in New Orleans.

It was like stumbling across an old friend.

Its Own Existence Whether It’s Noticed Or Not.

My attitude is, I make the sculpture in the studio on my own terms on my own time, and I want to see it go out of the studio and have its own existence whether it’s noticed or not.
—-Tony Cragg

Tony Cragg's "Line of Thought" Dallas, Texas

Tony Cragg’s “Line of Thought”
Dallas, Texas

Ever since I saw his exhibition at the Nasher a few years ago, I have been a fan of Tony Cragg. It was a tough time for me and visiting his sculpture meant something to me – it gave me an ethereal comfort. I think I found it reassuring that independently beauty still existed in the world.

Then I shot his work in the sculpture garden of the Dallas Museum of Art. Earlier this year, I found another work I liked in a museum in Houston.

At any rate, it is one thing to see sculpture in a museum or gallery – in a carefully-prepared setting – it is something entirely different to see sculpture in the wild… especially unexpectedly.

We were riding through Uptown Dallas at night on the monthly Critical Mass Ride, when I spotted a large sculpture out in front of a fancy office building – and it was undoubtedly a Tony Cragg. It was really cool to see, even if I had to keep on pedaling on.

Later, it didn’t take much internet searching to determine that the sculpture was Tony Cragg’s “Line of Thought” out in front of the Rosewood Court Complex. It has been there for a number of years, but I had never noticed it. Of course, that isn’t really my hood….

The weekend of the Uptown Ciclovía, where a street through uptown was closed to automobiles I made a point of finding the Rosewood Court (the Ciclovia route went right by it) and stopped to look and take a photo.

It was cool finding Cragg in the wild.

Tony Cragg's "Line of Thought" Dallas, Texas

Tony Cragg’s “Line of Thought”
Dallas, Texas

Tony Cragg

It was only two weeks ago but it feels like a thousand years. I walked out of the sodden night rain soaked miasma through the glass doors and was smacked in the face with the bracing cold dry air conditioning. It felt like being slapped by mechanized civilization. After catching my breath I stood as straight as I could, gathered together whatever tatters of pride I had left – like collecting strips of tissue in a gale – and looked around.

The walls of Italian Travertine never felt more cave-like, the glass planes at each end were black as a well. The wooden floor was polished to suggest a muted simulacrum of the world above. The works were arranged carefully about the space – curves alien and familiar mixed and cast by an expert hand.

I knew nothing of Tony Cragg – the artist – although he is so very well-known and famous. He has had a long and varied career with shapes and accumulations and paintings and piles of things and sketches and whatnot. His stuff was scattered all around inside and out, up and down, filling every nook and cubbyhole with some precious object.

But I was drawn by siren call to this gallery, to these monumental curves.

Tall and White. This was named Lost in Thought and it was my favorite. It looks like it is ready to start shambling across the floor. If I was a billionaire I would buy this and put it in my room so I could stick my hands inside and learn its secrets. Or maybe make it into a really big lamp.

People walked among the statues, looking up and down. I looked at the other guests. They were as interesting as the sculptures – but every bit as unreachable. Ghosts of moveable artworks. Made of meat.

My good camera was broken and the pictures are bad. It was too dark.

Some of the work had hidden faces. Some faces were not so hidden.

This one is called Mental Landscape. The label said it was made of Jesmonite. I had to look that up to see what it was.

Both of these two are called Ever After. One is made of wood and the other of bronze.

A view from earlier, from outside, looking in. The sculpture in the foreground is called Tree. It’s made of wood.