Friday, May 20, 2016

Jill Krementz covers Martin Puryear's "Big Bling"

"I came from a generation where the work was itself the information, and so there remains this belief that the work itself can have an identity that hopefully can speak. Whether it's through beauty or through ugliness or whatever quality you put into the work. That is what the work can be about.

"The work doesn't have to be a transparent vehicle for you to say things about life today or what you see people doing to each other or things like that. Not that that's not in the work ever, because I think the work can contain a lot of things, but my vehicle typically is to make work that is about the presentation of the work itself and what went into the making of the work as an object."
— Martin Puryear
Martin Puryear
Big Bling
Madison Square Park Conservancy
May 16, 2016-January 8, 2017

Martin Puryear at Madison Square Park reception.
Martin Puryear (American, b. 1941) is an American sculptor known for his devotion to traditional ways of working. One of my favorite artists, he typically creates handmade artworks using methods gleaned from carpentry, boat building, and other trades with spare, exacting stylistic dignity.

It's been Martin Puryear week in New York City. On Monday evening there was a reception for invited guests at Madison Square Park where his new forty-foot high installation, "Big Bling" made its debut.

"Big Bling" is part animal form, part abstract sculpture, and part intellectual meditation. Reminiscent of a Trojan horse, the installation is a multi-tier wood structure wrapped in fine chain-link fence. A gold-leafed shackle is anchored near the top of the structure.

Big Bling.
Among those on hand to congratulate the artist were Brooke Kamin Rapaport who curated the show — and from the art world — Matthew Marks, John Elderfield, Thelma Golden, Ann Temkin, Kate Levin, Lisa Phillips, and David Collens.

Two nights later, on May 18th, Mr. Puryear, an artist-in-residency in 1979, was honored with the third annual Yaddo Medal.

The sculptor will be appearing next week, Tuesday, May 24th as part of a symposium "Dreaming Public Art" sponsored by Mad. Sq. Park. The event, free and open to the public, will be held at the SVA Theater, 333 West 23rd Street; 8:30-10 PM. Reservations are necessary so RSVP to
Brooke Kamin Rapaport, curator of Madison Square Park Conservancy. "I am inspired by the way Big Bling references the buildings around it and their geometry."

"This is the artist's largest outdoor temporary piece. It references the fine woods he uses in the studio — but adapts everyday construction material, plywood and chain-link fence — to the challenges of installation on the city. Look at the architectural storeys in this work; they stand for the climb, the ascent.

"The chain-link fencing evokes the fine mesh that often wraps sections of Martin's sculpture, but here it is used as a symbolic barrier that both protects and excludes. At the pinnacle of the work is a shimmering gold-leaf shackle. That object is filled with contradiction. It is a radiant, seductive form that puts the bling in Big Bling. But a shackle constrains, it limits liberty, it prohibits access."
Keats Myer, Executive Director of Madison Square Park. Jeanne Puryear, a pianist and violinist who performs with ensembles, is the artist's wife.
Michael Puryear, a former photographer, is a furniture maker.
Milton Puryear, Director of Project Development at Brooklyn Greenway Initiative.

Martin Puryear is the eldest of seven siblings, five boys and two girls. Three of his brothers were at Madison Square Park: Michael, Milton, and Mark.
Mark Puryear, Curator for the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Mark is currently curating a public program, "Freedom Sounds," with the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, opening September 24th in Washington,. D.C.
Mark Puryear, Brooke Kamin Rapaport, and Meck Khalfan (from Tanzania), an associate board member of the Conservancy.
Ellie and Anne Strauss. Anne is an independent curator and art consultant. Her daughter Ellie, 20, is a student at Johns Hopkins where she is majoring in international studies and French. Gallerist Matthew Marks represents Martin Puryear in New York.
Big Bling looks like it's dwarfing The Empire State Building.
Claire Bernard and Emily Soukas from Urbanspace. They curate food stalls at Mad Square East and Grand Central Station.
Kate Levin, Bloomberg Associates..
David Berliner, Chair of Madison Square Conservancy, welcomes guests to the reception for Martin Puryear.
Spring flowers, a mutt named Rover, and some two-legged guests — most of whom stood during the remarks (except for Robin Cembalest who was taking pictures to post on Snapchat).
Brooke Kamin Rapaport.

"I cannot tell you how many artists have said to me that they go to Martin Puryear's sculpture for its clarity and spare exacting stylistic dignity — of method, of form, and of substance. Martin Puryear does not like to be described as an influential artist. Or esteemed, Or distinguished. Or revered. He prefers people to look hard at his work. What strikes me when we consider this newly commissioned sculpture standing forty-feet tall is the continuing profound innovation of Martin Puryear's art."

"People ask me what is this sculpture of? What does it represent? I trust THEIR eyes ... THEIR imagination ... and I trust my work to be a visual poem."
At the conclusion of his remarks Mr. Puryear thanked all those involved. It took four and a half days working in heavy winds for the crew to install Big Bling onto the concrete foundation supporting it.
The camera-shy artist flanked by Keats Myer and Brooke Kamin Rapaport.
Relaxed and smiling at the conclusion of his remarks, Mr. Puryear is embraced by a fan.

Jeanne Puryear admiring her husband's installation.
Kendal Henry, Director of Percent for Art, told me that someone on the subway had recently told him his dreds looked like "a crown of thorns."
Princeton University Art Museum's John Elderfield. Mr. Elderfield was the curator of Puryear's 2007 MoMA retrospective.

"Martin and I did the installation together. It was great working with him and his wonderful sculptures."
David Collens, Director and Chief Curator of Storm King Art Center.
Martin Puryear and MoMA'S AnnTemkin.

Penny Bach, Executive Director of the Association for Public Art in Philadelphia. "We're bringing this sculpture to Philadelphia next May for six months."
Thelma Golden with art writer Michael Brenson. Ms. Golden is the Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem; Mr. Brenson is a brilliant critic, scholar and teacher. Ursula von Rydingsvard, a distinguished sculptor who had a 2006 show in Madison Square Park.
Artist Terry Winters, who will be showing at Matthew Marks in November. Jeanne Collins, Ann Jones, an interior designer from San Francisco, and John Elderfield.
Matthew Marks and Jack Bankowsky, the former editor of Artforum.
Martin Puryear is greeted by Lisa Phillips, Director of the New Museum. Lisa was accompanied by her friend Lisa Ivorian-Jones whose company Ivorian-Jones Fine Art produces artist editions.
Lisa Phillips and Martin Puryear.

Dean Snyder with Penny Bach. Mr. Snyder heads the sculpture department at RISD.

"I've known Martin for 40 years ... ever since we were bachelors together in Chicago."
Martin and Jeanne with their daughter Sascha Puryear, 25, who is a photographer.

Rob Horton, Martin's longtime assistant since 2003, with his wife Marissa and their daughter Alexis. Horton is also a sculptor working in the realm of wooden boat building influenced by growing up on the coast of Maine.
If you visit Madison Square Park be sure to walk across the street to the beautiful Rizolli
Bookstore which has welcomed Big Bling to the neighborhood.
The window is filled with Puryear's books — this one devoted to his recent exhibit at The Morgan, some maquettes, and a small iron sculpture called Shackled.
Rizolli window with Shackled and maquettes for Big Bling.
I was practically singing along with Mr. Rogers in his cardigan sweater ...

"It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?..."

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.