Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tony Cragg in 4D in Venice & Meran

(Venice & Meran, Italy) The sculptor, Tony Cragg, does not work with trees. He feels them too strongly, and cannot bear to cut into them. I asked him, "But what about dead trees, killed by lightning?" No, not even dead trees. Their essence is still too strong. 

Tony Cragg, who has been christened "one of the most important sculptors of our times," does, however, work with bronze, glass, steel, stone, fiberglass, plastic, etc. There is something "spiritual" about his work, as if he can capture the "spirit" inside the material. 

Before I met him, I did not think that plastic had a spirit. I am still not sure it does. I don't really like plastic that much; I don't like the way it feels, and I don't like to eat or drink from containers made from plastic, nor do I like plastic forks and spoons. I can't kill living trees either, but I am, however, capable of carving up a dead tree killed by lightning, and thoroughly enjoy burning wood inside a cozy fireplace.
Cragg seems to be able to discover the spirit of the molecules themselves, no matter what the material is. He taught me something. I have always had a problem with material objects; actually with the material world in general. I said, jokingly, that maybe I should switch careers and become a sculptor so I could get a better feel for material. Cragg said that I am already working with material objects. He said I need a pen and a paper, or a computer, or something to write down my thoughts, otherwise they are just inside my head. And, of course, he is right.  The keyboard that I am typing on right now, to me, feels like a piano that makes music out of words. 

slot canyon in Arizona
Cragg's work reminds me of the slot canyons in Arizona and hoodoos and fairy castles in Bryce Canyon, Utah where Nature herself created a wonderland of Gothic steeples and people made out of stone. Tony Cragg is like a male Mother Nature in human form, replacing tools of wind, water and ice with a hammer and an imposing will. 

The Chessmen, Bryce Canyon

I was at the opening of Tony Cragg in 4D in Venice on August 28, 2010 at Ca' Pesaro, and at the opening of Tony Cragg in 4D in Meran on Saturday, February 12, 2011. 

Venice and Meran happen to be my two favorite towns in Italy; when I am not in Venice, you can find me in Meran, which is part of Bolzano, an autonomous province. Meran (in German) or Merano (in Italian) -- both languages are spoken, though the town feels more German than Italian -- is a magical spa town in South Tyrol where the Austrian Empress Elizabeth used to go for her health, with roaring Alpine water and majestic mountains. The beautiful Empress Sisi "a non-conformist who abhorred conventional court protocol" was much beloved; she has become an icon; she has a little park with a statue; there are promenades named after the walks she took across the roaring river, past castles and through the trees. 

Villa San Valentino
As usual, serendipity brought me to Meran for Tony Cragg's exhibit. A couple of years ago, I had fallen in love with a contemporary house under construction; I used to sneak inside and wander around, imaging how it would turn out. 

A couple of weeks ago, I went up to Merano to feel the earth beneath my feet and go to the spa. I hadn't been up to Merano since the morning of July 17, 2009, and in my absence, the house had been completed. I stood, staring at it, amazed, just gawking. An enchanting woman was near the house; she was the owner; and she invited me, a total stranger, inside. It turned out we knew angels in common (like the spirits of trees, angels, too, can feel each other wherever they go:), and I was kindly invited to the Tony Cragg opening in Meran by the director of KunstMeran/Merano Arte, Herta Wolf Torggler. 

Ca' Pesaro
When I arrived, I was surprised to see another angel, Michela Rizzo, up from Venice, then remembered:
Curated by Silvio Fuso and Jon Wood, the exhibition is a co-production by Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and KunstMeran/Merano Arte, where it will be on display from 5 February to 28 May 2011, curated by Valerio Dehò, in collaboration with Galleria Michela Rizzo and Caterina Tognon Arte Contemporanea, Venice

Kunst Meran Merano Arte
The difference in the spaces was dramatic, so it was like seeing two different shows. Ca' Pesaro is an enormous ancient palace, and the Kunst Meran Merano Arte is a modern exhibition space. Each show offered its unique perspective. Sculptures that seemed large at the Kunst Meran seemed smaller at Ca' Pesaro; the crowd of people at the Kunst Meran had to pause and be directed inside several of the rooms; the crowd at Ca' Pesaro simply flowed. I didn't prefer one over the other, they were just different. Click HERE to go to Kunst Meran Merano Arte.

At dinner, I found myself sitting directly across from Tony Cragg himself in the restaurant at the Hotel Terme Meran. I summed up my story about how I arrived in Venice: "Came for three months to write. Didn't want to go back to LA. Got divorced. Came quickly back to Venice. Ex-husband quickly married a Chinese woman." As I usually do, I asked Tony Cragg what his astrological sign was. He is one of those people who "doesn't believe in that." He said he had no idea. I said, "Well, when is your birthday?" He said, "April 9th." I said, "You are an Aires and you have the same birthday as my second husband, the one who married the Chinese." 

photo by Hugo Glendinning
From the New York Times, an article by Roderick Conway Morris, Inventing a New Visual Language

“During the last hundred years sculpture has been utterly transformed,” added Mr. Cragg, a British artist known for his adventurous use of both natural and man-made materials. “It has developed from being almost entirely figurative into a fundamental study of the material world. Sculpture has discovered so many new materials, so many new themes.”

To read the entire article, click HERE

The Hotel Therme Meran restaurant had prepared a special Tony Cragg menu featuring excellent local wines from the Kellerei Kaltern winery and food like "Mignons vom Schweinslendchen im Speckmantel Auf Kartoffelschnee mit Rosmarin und Wirsingrauten." Tony Cragg signed my menu:

"For Cat. Great Evening! Don't forget 9 April."

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. (Venice & Meran, Italy) The sculptor, Tony Cragg, does not work with trees. He feels them too strongly, and cannot bear to cut into them. I asked him, "But what about dead trees, killed by lightning?" No, not even dead trees. Their essence is still too strong.


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