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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Martin Puryear has created a body of work based on abstract organic forms rich with psychological, cultural, and historical references.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. In 2019 he represented the United States at the 58th Venice Biennale.

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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

Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019
Whitney Museum of American Art
New York, NY
Nov 22, 2019 - Jan, 2021
Martin Puryear: Big Bling
North Adams, MA
Opens Dec, 2019
James Prosek: Art, Artifact, Artifice
Yale University Art Gallery
New Haven, CT
Feb 14 - Nov 29, 2020

Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition
Phillips Collection
Washington, DC
Feb 29, 2020 - Jan 3, 2021
Presence: African American Artists from the Museum’s Collection
The Honolulu Museum of Art
Honolulu, HI
Opens Mar 7, 2020
PICTURE ID: Contemporary African American Works on Paper
Toledo Museum of Art
Toledo, Ohio
Aug 4, 2020 - Jan 17, 2021