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garden view in winter
Courtesy Walker Art Center
garden view in winter Image Rights
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garden view in winter
Courtesy Walker Art Center
Copyright retained by the artist


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Ordovician Pore
Tony Cragg
96 × 90 × 124 inches
granite, steel
Not on view

Object Details

Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of Joanne and Philip Von Blon, 1989

artwork entry Tony Cragg, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 1998

Trained as a scientist, Tony Cragg creates art that investigates the natural world. Yet if his sculptures comment on such topics as molecular structure, the human vascular system, or the Newtonian light spectrum, it is his use of man-made forms (either found or constructed) that transforms them into complex meditations on contemporary life. Here Cragg has constructed steel elements on a granite base—two smooth-surfaced concave cylindrical forms and two elemental biomorphic shapes—that comment on the Ordovician geological era of 500 million years ago, when oxygen was introduced into the atmosphere. While the oxygen gave rise to terrestrial life, it simultaneously killed off the species of algae that had produced it. The close resemblance of the cylinders to the cooling towers of nuclear power plants perhaps suggests an analogous life-death conundrum for our own technological age.

Jenkins, Janet, ed. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 1998, no. 30.

© 1998 Walker Art Center

curriculum resource Tony Cragg, Ordovician Pore (1989) Walker Art Center, 1998

British artist Tony Cragg was trained as a scientist and often derives his sculptures from geological forms, molecular structures, and the human vascular system in addition to man-made forms, such as food and chemical containers. He believes that understanding these structures can help us clarify our relationship to the material world. In Ordovician Pore Cragg combines five elements to suggest the connections between the artificial and natural worlds. The two hollow steel cylinders, whose shape, smooth surfaces, and symmetrical placement suggest that they belong to the world of man-made objects, are complemented by a pair of organic (biomorphic) podlike forms, also made from steel, positioned together on the granite base.

The title of the sculpture refers to the Ordovician Period, a geological era generally thought to have begun about 500,000,000 years ago. It was during this time that oxygen entered the atmosphere, allowing terrestrial life to evolve. Cragg likens the two organic forms to fossils while the cylindrical shapes resemble the cooling towers of nuclear power plants. The artist is perhaps suggesting that there is a relationship between the evolution of primitive life forms and the rise of technology in modern times.

Text for Tony Cragg, Ordovician Pore (1989), from the curriculum guide The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: A Garden for All Seasons, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center