New York

John Crawford


Like a number of other sculptors of his generation, John Crawford, who is in his early 30s, has chosen to work within the suggestive side of abstraction. Form carries special meaning here, or at least that seems to he this group of work’s general intention. But no matter how certain an artist’s intentions, what will always matter more is the art works themselves, which, in order to communicate, to seem more than that which meets the eye, have to speak visually to the viewer. The relationship of intention to execution was brought to mind by Crawford’s recent display of forged iron sculptures, a body of work he did from 1982 to 1984.

The sculptures seem an articulate lot, chatting away on a multitude of issues and themes. Their gestural forms appear not so much to be installed in space as to address the surroundings from wherever they are placed. Of course, what they have to say varies according to the different formal vocabularies Crawford seems to investigate in individual examples. These vocabularies cover several of the major source areas favored by abstract sculptors these days, including architecture, furniture, implements, and the history of sculpture. The most successful examples, to my eye, manage, in the magical way that is endemic to sculpture, to transcend their sources.

Such is the case with T-Form, 1982, my favorite work in the show Crawford has done something personal and universal here with a fascinating variation on one of the oldest and most symbolically loaded structures known to civilization: the cross. The form he has created is deceptively simple: a pair of three-foot beams extending at wide angles in opposite directions from the point of an arrow-shaped upright 30 inches high. The source of the structure’s emotive force is its small scale, which emphasizes tensile properties. That, in turn, causes T-Form to appear to rise forth from the ground and reach for the skies, surging forward on wings of pictorial energy produced by the dark textured surfaces in tandem with the rippling rhythms of the sculpture’s irregular edges and stark image. Trains of associations triggered by the strong sensations of movement and weighty mass sent this viewer’s thoughts racing in decidedly totemic directions, toward rewarding considerations of sculpture as icon.

Ronny Cohen