Tony Cragg at Boboli

On 11 September 2019, by Zaha Redman

The combination of the extraordinary setting of the Boboli gardens and the monumental sculptures of Tony Cragg (b. 1949) works marvellously.

Tony Cragg (b. 1949), Elliptical Column and Point of View, 2012-2018, steel.
Photography: Michael Richter

Firstly through their affinities: the Mannerist aesthetic of the park, teeming with oddities and secret spots intermingling with the plant life, chimes in beautifully with the artist's hybrid "deformities", which come from a world of astonishing half-natural, half-virtual proliferations. Conversely, we discover an evocative contrast between two periods, ours and the Medici's, though both are imbued with melancholic anxiety. Here Cragg's sculpture becomes classical, while Boboli seems fired by the topicality of the monumental pieces. The chrome-plated geyser standing out against the Florentine panorama with Brunelleschi's dome is a quasi-hallucination, especially as it is the only work set against such a broad backdrop. But the other pieces, in resin, plaster and bronze, sit well in the chiselled-out flowerbeds and alleys, and seem to summarise the British artist's output through a splendid range of his formal and existential obsessions. Cragg leans towards a form of monstrosity he obstinately endeavours to define, and which resonates speakingly with the Mannerist grottos and fountains. The sculptor seems to be waging a battle against giants, on a scale involving a cosmic space full of disconcertingly serial curves, numbers and rhythms and increasingly abstract imperatives in terms of carving and design. His pieces are always half-way between vegetable, mineral and digital; a mixture of worked forms and machined parts. This deliberate irresolution produces a pathos, one might even say a lyricism, skilfully set off by the massive, monumental aspect. "Cragg at Boboli" provides a wealth of intuitions and stimulating sensations.

"Tony Cragg in Boboli Gardens", Palazzo Pitti, Florence.
until 27 October 2019
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