Martin Puryear is one of the greatest sculptors working today, internationally recognized for his evocative forms and masterful craftsmanship. His artworks have a rare ability to balance equally the mind and the hand, idea and making. He combines inspiration from Scandinavian design, wood working in West Africa, Japanese gardens, and more, yet his artworks are always immediately recognizable as his own.
>> Martin Puryear's * 1941 Washington D.C.
creations are never wholly abstract; rather they evoke associations with essential human needs and issues, including shelter and sanctuary, aspiration and exploration, concealment and mystery. Sometimes these associations are conveyed through title references or visual forms such as a ladder or wheeled cart or bower. Puryear mostly constructs objects of wood, bending and shaping natural materials using the skills of a weaver or boat builder or gardener. Sometimes he also uses field stones or bronze.
The shapes of his structures are refined in drawings and prints that have gained their own dedicated following. Both his small and large works feel monumental in scale and impact; they are simple in the largest sense—distillations of the natural world, filtered through the hand of a single maker. Puryear’s art is cherished today in part because he has brought new energy and insight to wood-working traditions that were thought to have been exhausted in the West decades ago.
The exhibition Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions (27.05.2016 - 05.09.2016) is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in close collaboration with the artist and includes many works that have never before been shown. The exhibition explores certain forms that occur frequently across time and medium in Puryear’s sculptures, drawings, and prints, beginning with some of his earliest artworks, which he made while serving in the Peace Corps in Senegal in the early 1960s.(Text: Smithsonian American Art Museum)