American, born 1941
65 x 54 1/2 x 48 1/2 inches (165.1 x 138.4 x 123.2 cm)
Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 1997
Martin Puryear’s travels and studies resulted in detailed knowledge of African, Scandinavian, Japanese, Native American, and modernist sculpture traditions, out of which he created his own personal language. In the 1960s, he also experienced the trend towards Minimalism, which emphasized simplified, large-scale forms with industrial finishes with no intended reference outside their physical presence. From Minimalism, Puryear said he learned “the power of the simple, single thing as opposed to a full-blown complex array of things.”
Puryear’s earliest pieces were made of wood; later he also used tar, wire mesh, and even an anvil. It was not until the 1990s that he began to create work with bronze and copper. The Gallery’s piece is made of polished copper, forming a large head- or thumb-shaped form punctuated by small, irregularly placed holes that lead one to question what might be inside. Unlike much of his previous work, it is untitled. Like all of Puryear’s sculpture, however, it is at the same time personal and universal, with an ambiguous form that invites us to devise our own interpretations using individual feelings, thoughts, and experiences.
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