Martin Puryear at the Smithsonian

Exhibition Review

  • "Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions"

  • Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
  • 27 May 2016 - 05 Sep 2016
  • Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions

  • By Mark Pascale, with an essay by Ruth Fine
  • 160 pages, 140 color illustrations
  • Published by The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, distributed by Yale University Press, 2015
  • $35

Martin Puryear, Quadroon (1966–67), soft ground etching and aquatint with plate tone monotype on paper, 22 1/4 x 22 inches. ©Martin Puryear. Courtesy of the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery.

Martin Puryear has long been recognized for his meticulously crafted, quixotic and evocative sculptures, but his consummate skills as a draftsman and printmaker have been less celebrated, and indeed, prior to the arrival of the exhibition “Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions,” they have simply been less visible. Organized by Mark Pascale, the Art Institute of Chicago’s Janet and Craig Duchossois Curator of Prints and Drawings, the show was seen in Chicago, at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. The exhibition featured approximately 70 prints, drawings and related sculptures from throughout Puryear’s nearly 40-year career, including many works never shown before outside the artist’s studio.1 Together with its substantial catalogue, it illuminated the complex and intimate relationship between Puryear’s two- and three-dimensional thinking, and the persistence with which he continually revisits and reworks forms, in some cases, over the course of decades.2

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  1. “Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions” was on view at the Morgan from 9 October 2015 to 10 January 2016 and at the Art Institute of Chicago from 7 February to 1 May 2016. []
  2. Previous exhibitions that included Puryear’s works on paper were “Martin Puryear: Sculpture and Works on Paper” (Carnegie Mellon University, 1987); “Drawing into Sculpture: Martin Puryear” (Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, 1999); “Martin Puryear: The Cane Project” (Studio Museum, Harlem, New York, 1999); and “Martin Puryear Prints” (Anderson Gallery, de Young Museum, San Francisco, 2008; and the Cincinnati Art Museum, 2010). []