Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nasher Sculpture Garden; Tony Cragg

We had a nice time at the Nasher Sculpture Center on Saturday morning. It was  a free admission day and there were dozens of small children running around the shaded lawn of the garden, trying desperately to touch the sculpture that they weren't allowed to touch, and sometimes succeeding.

One of our objectives had been to go in the James Turrell piece, which is a kind of underground kiva. You look up at the ceiling, and there is a square opening through which you see the sky. Sometimes it's a blue rectangle; sometimes clouds scoot by. If it rains, the rain comes inside, but you can sit on benches around the edge of the kiva and not get wet. The benches are warmed by internal heaters, and they are deliciously sensual to lie on, even though they are hard. But sadly, the installation was closed: Turrell is re-designing the kiva to take into account the presence of a new tower that blocks the view of the sky. The Dallas Museum of Art is building this tower to lure its members to live in the area, apparently in the hopes that the same  people will bequeath their art collection to the museum when they die. Apparently the ceilings of the penthouse apartments are 18 feet tall, to accommodate these prospective tenants' art collections. We all know that art these days has to be big to be any good!

This cross section gives you an idea of how the kiva works.

And this is what it looks like when there are a few clouds in the sky.

But as I said, we couldn't go in. However the area right around the kiva is quite lovely:

The featured exhibition was by a sculptor from the UK called Tony Cragg. I had never heard of him before, but I liked his work quite a lot. There were somewhat biomorphic shapes made out of all kinds of things. The ones I liked best were carved laminated wood.

Also there was a boat with all these hooks screwed into it, almost like barnacles. For some reason both Tom and I really liked this piece. It just bristled with energy, and it had a kind of light-hearted humor about it.

Cragg's work is quite varied: some is straight-up sculpture, cast bronzes and carvings and the like, and other stuff is Rauschenberg-like combines (the boat), or assemblage, like these bottles.

There were also some drawings. The drawings of sculptors are always interesting: how does a person who thinks mainly in three dimensions work in two dimensions? Cragg's drawings, as one might expect, have a strong sense of depth and space.

The drawings did not seem to be preparatory to any particular sculpture, but rather just explorations of ideas that might lead to a piece of sculpture. The one above seemed to relate to a piece made out of dice. It was like a huge coiled basket with a lid. The photograph below barely hints at the size of this object: it was as tall as me, made out of thousands of dice glued together very precisely. The example at the Nasher is just one of many pieces Cragg made out of dice.

One great thing about sculpture gardens is the opportunity to draw things that stand still: sculptures.

I made a drawing of a Calder piece called "Three Bollards." I had to look up the word "bollard." It means a post by a quay for mooring ships to.

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