For some time now, Tony has been exploring the visual possibilities of altered books.  Choosing from vintage encyclopedias and dictionaries, discarded text books, old atlases and graphic novels he carefully cuts through one page at a time to reveal existing images in a three dimensional collage.  The results allow the contents and imagery of long outdated material to be viewed in a manner that is both exciting and thought provoking.  

Tony is currently represented exclusively by Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans.

Histories of Jazz and Graphic Art Blend into Diffusion 

The histories of jazz and graphic art aren’t similar, but the two come together in the work of Tony Dagradi. Best known as the founder of the group Astral Project, Dagradi's smooth saxophone playing weaves in and out of the sounds of his fellow instrumentalists in what may be the closest thing to a classical contemporary jazz combo. 

It’s “classical” because you can hear the history of modern jazz reborn in sleek new forms. Dagradi brings a similar sense of context to the 44 book sculptures in his…

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Astral Project's Tony Dagradi Reveals His Artwork 

Following decades of being a renowned jazz musician, saxophonist Tony Dagradi extended his artistic reach to visual art. In 2015, Dagradi, best known for his musical explorations with Astral Project and teaching at Loyola University, developed a passion for making sculptural collages. 

Dagradi’s medium is books—usually of the vintage kind. For each sculptural collage, he selects and cuts images from a single book or a set of encyclopedia volumes. Dagradi reassembles the images as collages seen through the…

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Books Transposed - Gambit 

Tony Dagradi is widely known for his silken modern jazz saxophone playing, a lyricism that reveals his mastery of an instrument with endless potentially rough edges. Less known are his sculptural collages. Featuring whimsical juxtapositions of images that read like improvisational visual riffs, they explore the unexpected relationships between moments in visual time in much the same way jazz musicians explore serendipitous resonances between familiar notes and melodies to create new experiences for the…

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My decades long career in contemporary jazz directly informs my work as a visual artist.  Music, for me, has always had a visual component, with the diverse elements of music suggesting colors, shapes and textures.  The juxtaposition of abstract shapes which come together as I work on a book, is very much how I perceive the interplay of melody, harmony and rhythm.

Improvisation is also key to my approach in both genres.  Within a jazz ensemble, each player is responsible for an individual part which must support and inspire the other musicians.  In the heat of the moment, unexpected phrases or motivic ideas can affect surprising new directions for the collective ensemble.  Similarly, the tension and harmony which naturally occurs as I uncover each new image unfailingly impacts the whole and often shifts the form and concept of the emerging composition.   

Cutting through each book page by page to expose selected subject matter is primarily a subtractive process.  However, I often choose to reserve certain images for later use.  This too is comparable to the open-ended conversation on the bandstand, and provides me with greater control over the development of each piece. 

I prefer working with vintage books and encyclopedias.  The eclectic photos and illustrations represent material that is long out of date, yet offer a fascinating window into our past.  Ultimately, I hope to provide a perspective on the transitory nature of what earlier generations understood to be factual, and offer insight into the way ever evolving media has shaped contemporary perspectives.