In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Crawford painted in an abstract manner. While the paintings bore some resemblance to color-field art, they often featured built-up surfaces and frequently contained panels that extended outward from the wall. Not only were these aspects clues to his predilection for sculpture, they signified an art that was trying literally to reach out to the viewer. Thom Cooney-Crawford began to make sculpture in earnest durin gthe early 1980s. His early works featured single elongated figures in fantasy landscapes. They are partly indebted to the sculpture of Alberto Giacometti, which Crawford admires. While Giacometti's creatures are withered and anguished, Crawford's are more smoothly finished and often stand on geometric pinnacles. They seem to be peering toward another realm and thus have positive, life-enhancing and visionary characteristics which are in the spirit of all of Crawford's art.
By 1987, Crawford found his figurative works restricitve. In his words,"They became to psychological and narrative." He began to look for more universal and symbolic forms with which to incorporate the feelings generated by those persons. Between 1988 and early 1989, he created four dramatic, vertical scuplutres, the smallest is nearly eight feet tall. The works differ from his figurative pieces not only in their symbolic bstraction but in their forcefulness. They confront us as powerful presences and assert the new direction that the artist feels compelle d to pursue. As a group, the siumultaneously remind us of personages, ancient tree trunks and megaliths from prehistory. Crawford"s abstraction makes all of these felt references simultaneously possible. Each sculpture has an individual personality.
Crawford's art has its origins in the great sculptureal inventions at the beginning of the twentieth century. His work relates to the simplicity and harmony that were evoked by Constantin Brancusi as well as the organic vitalism of Henry Moore. He draws on the spirit of these pioneers of early modernism without imitating either of them. In terms of contemporary sculptors, Crawford feels closest to such artists as William Tucker, Martin Puryear and Magdelena Abakanowicz, all abstract sculptors who seek meaningful humanist content. Yet Crawford's work differs from the rawer energy of Tucker, the perfectionism of Puryear and the scarred exprssionism of Abakanowicz. He has chartered his own course with sculptural presences that are at once animated and meditative.
Text Adapted from Exhibition Flyer written by Dr. Robert Saltonstall Mattison of Lafayette College.