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WORTH A STROLL? TONY CRAGG’S ‘WALKS OF LIFE’ AT MADISON SQUARE PARK

Caldera by Tony Cragg

Caldera by Tony Cragg

Working in bronze, one would expect Cragg’s Walks of Life  sculptures (currently at Madison Square park through Feb 2015) to feel heavy and forbidding. It’s a pleasant surprise, then, that encountering them one actually feels a welcome invitation to explore. Walking through the area on a bright fall day, I came across Cragg’s Caldera in the Southwest corner of the park and was immediately surrounded by screaming children playing tag beneath the work. The juxtaposition of polished, undulating metal  and frenetic, dynamic activity was unexpected. My surprise quickly turned to recognition that Cragg has placed three sculptures around the park serving three very different purposes: audience engagement, observation, and environmental response.

 

Mixed Feelings Tony Cragg

Mixed Feelings Tony Cragg

 

Caldera engages participants to touch, peer through, and intimately examine the surface of the luminous bronze sculpture. What of Mixed Feelings, situated on (or as the Madison Square Park Conservancy notes, “commanding”)  the northwest lawn, placed out of reach of the public? The bronze patina is weathered to a pale green on the mammoth surface, adding a layer of historical precedence such as found on the iconic Statue of Liberty. The spinning abstract folds tapering down the durable, weathered material play with ideas of modern and ancient, representation and abstraction. The sweeping scale and distant placement of Mixed Feelings make it ideal for observation and reflection.

 

Tony Cragg's Points of View, distant

Tony Cragg’s Points of View, distant

 

Points of View is Cragg’s third piece, centrally located within the park in a wide lawn and consisting of three vertical haphazardly stacked swaths of bronze participating in a tri-partite dialogue: with each other, the environment, and guests of the space. Offering multiple vantage points, Cragg’s arrangement embodies the scale of abstract monumental forms with the subtle elegance of Japanese rock gardens. They negotiate a presence within the space of the park and the Flatiron as a whole: no easy feat. Their relation to one another also seems to shift as the viewer moves around the work.

 

Tony Cragg's Points of View, closer

Tony Cragg’s Points of View, closer

 

At the end of the day, after spending quite some time wavering between curiosity and apathy, I have to go with: worth a stroll. These disparate bronze works form a cohesive “walk” for guests to experience, question, and explore. They encourage a new way of looking at the space and punctuate the landscape in very palpable ways. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out–tag, you’re it!

 

 

 

 

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