Martin Puryear at the MoMA
They're on a roll, those MoMA curators. Following this summer's brilliant Richard Serra show comes this beautiful and dramatic career retrospective—from the mid 1970s to 2007—of Martin Puryear's sculptures. My occasionally reluctant but ultimately always art-loving daughters and I went on opening day last Sunday, and totally enjoyed everything about the exhibition, from the soaring pieces in the Atrium—especially, of course, Ladder for Booker T. Washington, from which, as you can see above, Co swung—to the several dozen free-standing and wall-mounted pieces on the sixth floor.
I think my kids and I liked Puryear's free-standing work so much because of its evocative—and inherently narrative—qualities. We would ask each other: What does this one remind you of? An elephant (Bo and Co)... or a snail (me, to much rolling of eyes)? There's also something dark and mysterious about many of these pieces, and if you stumbled across them in the woods, I'm not sure you wouldn't be more than a little creeped out, worried that whomever built them may still be nearby.
Of course, if you're not of a storytelling bent, many of these are also technically marvelous and incredibly sensual—you'll be extremely tempted to touch—plus there's the powerful subtext running throughout of colonialism, oppression, imprisonment (external and internal), and freedom.
But my favorite part of the show, perhaps, was Puryear's series of circular, almost minimalist wall-mounted pieces, including Big and Little Same, below. These all were so elegant and creative, I thought.
The Martin Puryear exhibition runs through January 14. The Museum of Modern Art is located on 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.