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Yard consists of six separate pieces of carved and honed brecciated marble, a composite rock comprised of angular fragments of broken marbles which have congealed into a decorative mass. The floor-bound arrangement of red and red/grey marble suggests a place of shelter: four retaining 'walls' form an enclosure, inside which is a central, rectangular piece of stone that has been carved to reveal the form of a bottle, a ring and part of an exhaust pipe. Sitting outside the enclosure is another section of marble, carved to reveal a second bottle. Yard is one of several stone sculptures that Cragg produced in 1988 which explored the theme of the shelter or dwelling. The motif of the house recurs frequently in his work, with its earliest occurrence in House of 1982 (reproduced in Tony Cragg: Sculpture 1975-90, p.86). For Cragg, the house, and by extension the town and city, exemplify the way in which human beings modify their environment. He is fascinated by the symbiotic relationship between civilization and the natural world. In a 1987 interview, Cragg identified as key themes in his work his relationship to the natural world and humankind's impact on nature. Insisting that what we call the 'natural world' is increasingly man-made, Cragg has said that he 'refuse[s] to distinguish between the landscape and the city', adding that man-made objects are 'fossilized keys to a past time which is our present' (quoted in Tony Cragg, p.26-28).
In Yard, Cragg gives visual form to his notion of the 'man-made fossil': the objects carved from the stone remain embedded in it, suggesting that not only does civilization emerge from raw matter, but that it will eventually return to it, leaving only fossilized clues to its existence. The composite nature of the breccia marble reinforces this archaeological aspect of the work and relates to Cragg's interest in geology which has informed his entire career, linking works such as Stack, 1975 (Tate T07428), Mineral Vein, 1986 (T04866) and On the Savannah, 1988 (T05519).
A New Thing Breathing: Recent Work by Tony Cragg, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Liverpool 2000, reproduced in colour p.88.
Tony Cragg, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1987.
Tony Cragg: Sculpture 1975-90, exhibition catalogue, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach 1990.