Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Tony Cragg (British, b. 1949)

Red Bottle, 1982

Plastic objects

108 x 33 x 3 in. (274.3 x 83.8 x 7.6 cm)

Gerald S. Elliott Collection

The British artist Tony Cragg loves transforming manmade materials into new and unexpected creations. “Man’s relationship to his production,” he has said, “is basically the central theme of my work.” Cragg is particularly attracted to materials generally considered unartistic, particularly plastic, which he has called “a pure, manmade product with no history, no poetic metaphors attached to it.”

In the early 1980s, Cragg began to take broken pieces of manmade objects and reassemble them into recognizable forms, including a royal crown, the British flag, and a map of Great Britain. Eventually, he created his own version of Michelangelo’s David by arranging fragments of off-white plastic on a wall.

Red Bottle is one of Tony Cragg’s early sculptures, or “drawings” as he calls them, which consist of refuse arranged into wall or floor mosaics. He found these plastic products off a beach in Sussex, England, and separated them into groups according to color. He then arranged them into the shape of a bottle—one of the items he had collected.