Tony Cragg at Marian Goodman Gallery

Installation of Tony Cragg’s sculpture at Marian Goodman Gallery

* * *

A few weeks back, I buzzed through the exhibition of Tony Cragg’s new sculptures at Marian Goodman Gallery and found it worthy of not much more than that. But after reading favorable notices of the show and receiving counsel, albeit qualified, from sculptor friends, I returned to Goodman and found myself perplexed. Mr. Cragg’s art is an immaculate stew of precedent–Henry Moore, say, run through a Minimalist processing plant and polished off with an impermeable Dadaist veneer.

The pieces suggest funny things: one massive work constructed from kertu wood looks like a marshmallow totem; another comes on like a petrified piece of popcorn. But Mr. Cragg’s art isn’t, in the end, funny. It’s sterile and inert, slick rather than shaped. The sculptures have nothing to say to each other. Each creates its own vacuum-packed space, effectively sealing off the viewer from experiencing it.

All of which has the consequence of making the gallery seem curiously vacant. Never before have I been so aware of an art gallery being a showroom. All galleries are showrooms, of course, but Mr. Cragg transforms Ms. Goodman’s space into an art world IKEA, with merchandise that is studiously designed, cleanly manufactured and perfect for putting a plant next to. Most of what passes for art nowadays asks for little more than laudatory neglect. Here’s some more of it.

© 2000 Mario Naves

A version of this article originally appeared in the December 25, 2000-January 1, 2001 edition of The New York Observer.

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