Welcome to the first artist “Spotlight” here on Art Caravan. Spotlight will be a daily feature, meant to be a short introduction to various artists I think are worth looking at! Some may be famous artists that you may have already heard of, and others may be up-and-coming artists whose work I am excited about. Through Spotlight, I hope to compile a great list of artists that can be perused at anytime, calling notice to artists that I love and respect as well as great artists throughout the history of art.
Today’s Spotlight is on the American artist Martin Puryear. All of the mediums I work in are 2-D, and I have always had a hard time making/appreciating/liking 3-D work. So for me to love the work of a sculptor is a big deal, and I love the work of Martin Puryear. Born in D.C. in 1941, Martin Puryear has won many, many awards for his work and recently had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This is where I first encountered him- I was in New York during the show in November 2007 for Thanksgiving and got to visit the MoMA. I was absolutely enamored from the beginning with his monolithic, yet delicate, finely carved and constructed pieces.
They are like familiar enigmas- they seem to remind you of something, and yet you’re not sure what. Some of them seem almost like eggs, like something could burst out of them at any moment. They are poetic in their minimalism and quiet presence, and beautiful in material: wood of all different colors, wire, tar, stone, and so on. While some of his pieces are round and heavy-looking, others are spindly and light. They come in various sizes, and some are literally larger-than-life. His work is embedded with themes ranging from colonization and cultural exchange to form and function. His work is organic and mechanical, African and American, poetic and beautiful. If you live here in Baltimore and would like to experience one of his pieces, you can trip on over to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where one of his larger works rests in the middle of an open marble court in the museum. My two favorite things about Puryear’s work are the quiet presence they have about them, their vague familiarity, and also the craftsmanship he brings to them- each piece is nearly perfectly constructed, which is easy for anyone who has ever worked with wood or any other hard sculptural material to appreciate!