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Martin Puryear


Over the last five decades Martin Puryear has created a body of work based on abstract organic forms rich with psychological, cultural, and historical references. His labor-intensive sculptures are made by hand at his studio in upstate New York. They combine practices adapted from many different traditions, including wood carving, joinery, and boat building, as well as more recent technology. As a student, Puryear studied ornithology, falconry, and archery, and in the 1960s he volunteered with the Peace Corps in west Africa, where he educated himself in the region’s indigenous crafts. Since then he has continued to travel extensively, observing a range of cultures and their unique approaches to object making. “I think there are a number of levels at which my work can be dealt with and appreciated,” he has said. “It gives me pleasure to feel there’s a level that doesn’t require knowledge of or immersion in the aesthetic of a given time or place.” 
 
Martin Puryear was born in 1941 in Washington, DC, and was educated at Catholic University in Washington, the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in Stockholm, and Yale University. His first one-person exhibition was in 1968, and since then he has exhibited throughout the world, including public commissions in Europe, Asia, and the United States. He represented the United States at the 1989 Bienal de São Paulo, where he was awarded the festival’s Grand Prize, and his work was featured in Documenta 9 in 1992. In 2007 the Museum of Modern Art in New York organized a survey of his work, which traveled to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. In 2015 the Art Institute of Chicago organized an exhibition of fifty years of his works on paper, which traveled to the Morgan Library and Museum in New York and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. Puryear received a MacArthur Foundation award in 1989 and a National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2011. He is currently representing the United States at the 58th Venice Biennale.


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Biography
Bibliography
Museum Exhibitions
Approaching American Abstraction: The Fisher Collection
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco, CA
Opens May 14, 2016
Crossroads: Carnegie Museum of Art’s Collection, 1945 to Now
Carnegie Museum of Art
Pittsburgh, PA
Jun 22, 2018 - Nov 21, 2021
5 Ways In: Themes from the Collection
Walker Art Center
Minneapolis, MN
Feb 14, 2019 - Sep 12, 2021

Martin Puryear: Liberty / Libertà
Venice Biennale, US Pavilion
Venice, Italy
May 11 - Nov 24, 2019
Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York, NY
May 24, 2019 - Jan 12, 2020
Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art
Baltimore Museum of Art
Baltimore, MD
Sep 29, 2019 - Jan 19, 2020

Contemporary Art: Five Propositions
Museum of Fine Arts
Boston, MA
Oct 26, 2019 - May 4, 2020
Detroit Collects: Selections of African American Art from Private Collections
Detroit Institute of Arts
Detroit, MI
Nov 12, 2019 - Mar 1, 2020