If you were to look at Martin Puryear as the pains-taking, attention to detail craftsman that he is; that would be fine. You could; in theory, view his work as decorative objects designed to adorn a room or space with a truth of grace and beauty. He can also represent the last of the artist as hands on interpreter of the world and the glories of life. Martin Puryear is all of these; he is in every reality many things more.
I was first introduction to Mr. Puryear through the pages of Ebony Magazine in a nineteen seventies article noting praise-worthy contemporary African-American Artists. His works do sometimes speak to his heritage as a former resident of Washington DC and a Black American. His piece “Ladder for Booker T. Washington” is a particular and exceptional example of his acknowledgement of the shared American and Black Histories. The ladder (431” x 22” x 3”) is created from a single sapling split in two and joined by rungs. The work is an optical illusion of sorts as it bends and turns from the 22” base to about 1.25” at the piece’s apex. The cultures of many nations have influenced and informed the works of martin Puryear. Sierra Leone, Sweden, Japan and France are among the countries he has lived in, studied and embraced “The Family of Man.” He works reflect the sensibilities of an amazing world citizen.
The PBS series art : 21 chose Martin Puryear as one of their first artist’s to be profiled. He was awarded “The National Medal of Arts” by President Barack Obama. Several great museums including The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC have honored Mr. Puryear with retrospectives. He was recently part of the highest priced auction in history when Christies scored an amazing $745 million in sells. $1.8 million of the total came from the sale of a Puryear piece. Congratulations to Mr. Puryear for all his awards and achievements as he continues in his efforts. He is making a difference for the positive in the world; he is doing very well.
“At a certain point, I just put the building and the art impulse together. I decided that building was a legitimate way to make sculpture.”