Saturday, December 15, 2007
Martin Puryear at MoMA
Caught the Martin Puryear show at MoMA the day after our opera night (see previous post). This show covers Puryear's development from the late 70's to the present and features around fourty-five pieces. The bulk of the work is on the sixth floor special exhibition spaces, but a few of his larger works are placed in the second floor atrium area, where my photos were taken. No photos were allowed in the sixth floor section, of course.
I first became aware of Martin Puryear in the mid-late 80's when I saw a great exhibition of his work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Quite a few of the works I saw then were in this show and it was like seeing old friends again after a long separation. Right alongside the older works were newer ones, a non-chronological arrangement that was a great asset to the show since you could see Puryear's ideas going back and forth between works completed years apart. At the same time, there wasn't a sense that he was repeating himself. That's something that I think contributes to the sense of timelessness his sculpture has.
The allusive quality of his work is really strong but you can never quite put your finger on what it might be that he is refering to. I can look at one of his pieces and be on the brink of recognition, just about to have an 'a-ha!' moment, but then something happens-a shift in materials or surface treatment-that makes me re-evaluate my original assumption; is that a wooden facsimile of a sawblade or one side of an unfinished flight of stairs? Puryear takes fairly recognizable forms like ladders, wheels, tools, etc..., and places then in unusual formal relationships that creates things that are tantalizingly close to what we know in our world but just different enough to exist on another plane altogether.