Modernism Without Irony: The Paintings of Gary Wragg by Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann

12 August, 2014

Gary Wragg, “Promenade” (1978), acrylic, pastel, charcoal, and Rohplex on canvas, 70 x 175 in

In 1978, the esteemed British curator Bryan Robertson saw fit to compare the promise of painter Gary Wragg’s emergent career with that of the young Jackson Pollock. It is a comparison lent some weight by the fact that Robertson had written a monograph and organized a major exhibition devoted to Pollock’s work when he was Director of London’s Whitechapel Gallery.

Quoted within the pages of the recent two-volume survey of Wragg’s career, however, the comparison jars. The career of the English painter has been considerably longer and more sustained than his American predecessor (the survey, Constant Within The Change: Gary Wragg, Five Decades of Paintings: A Comprehensive Catalogue by Sam Cornish, spans from very early pre-student works of 1963 through to 2013), but what will certainly strike the reader is Wragg’s failure to achieve an appreciable level of international recognition. Indeed, while it was likely that Wragg’s innovative expansion of painting’s medium-specific possibilities underlay Robertson’s excitement, these self-same qualities might be taken to account for Wragg’s relative obscurity today.

You can read the whole review here