Martin Puryear (American, b.1941) is renowned for his sculptures depicting organic, suggestive forms that reference craft making, and are rife with specific cultural associations. Puryear was born in Washington, D.C. and proved himself adept in woodworking at a young age, constructing several wooden objects, including a guitar and a canoe. Puryear attended Catholic University and intended to study biology, but switched his major to painting halfway through his college years. After college, he was inspired by the woodworking and craftsmanship he encountered on a Peace Corps assignment in Sierra Leone; later while studying printmaking at the Swedish Royal Academy of Art, he found himself again attracted to the basket weaving of locals in Sweden and Norway. Building on this interest in craft, he decided to study sculpture at Yale University, and graduated with an M.F.A. in 1971. Puryear spent the next few years teaching, receiving increased critical recognition for his works in tar, wood, wire, stone, and metal, which marry craftsmanship with abstracted, organic forms in contemplative works alluding to specific emotions, objects, and cultural contexts. In 1989, he won the São Paolo Biennial Grand Prize, which secured his international fame as a sculptor. Puryear has been honored with the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation Award, and the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture. He has held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Puryear currently lives and works in New York.

Timeline

1963
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Art Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
1966–1968
Education Swedish Royal Academy of Art, Stockholm, Sweden
1969–1971
Education: Master of Fine Arts, Sculpture Yale University, School of Art & Architecture, New Haven, CT
1989
Grand Prize 1989 Sao Paulo Bienal, Sao Paulo, Brazil
1992–1996
Worked at Calder Atelier Sache, France
Special Project Belvedere Park, Battery Park City, NY
Elected to Amer. Acad. & Inst. of Arts & Letters
College Art Association Award
Honorary Degree Yale University, New Haven, CT
Professor, Department of Art University of Illinois, Chicago, IL

Exhibitions

2007
Martin Puryear: Sculpture Retrospective, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
2004
Gyroscope series, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
2004
Discussion, Meet the Artist, “Martin Puryear,” inaugurating the 30th anniversary Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.,
2003–2004
Installed Public Art at the Mori Arts Center, Roppongi Hills in conjunction with Happiness: A Suvival Guide for Art and Life (Harmony), The Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
2003
Art:21 Art in the Twenty-First Century, Time, (Emmy-Nominated Series), Season Two, PBS, 9:00pmSeptember 15, 2003. www.pbs.org/art21, interview of Martin Puryear
2002
Guardian, stone, Mori Art Museum, Roppongi Hills, Tokyo, Japan, commission for TV Asahi
1999–2000
That Profile, steel, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
1999
This Mortal Coil, Eglise Salpetrière, Festival d’Automne, Paris, France. (Temporary)
1997
Bearing Witness, Reagan Building, Federal Triangle, Washington, D.C.,
1997
Courtyard for the New School for Social Research, New York
1996
Meditation in a Beech Wood, Stiftelsen Wanas Utstalliningar, Wanas Foundation, Knislinge, Sweden
1995
McKee Gallery NYC
1994
"Putting Things Together: Recent Sculpture from the Anderson Collection", The Art Museum of Santa Cruz County Santa Cruz, CA
1994
Donald Young Gallery Seattle, WA
1994
"Western Artists/African Art", The Museum for African Art NYC
1994
"Landscape as Metaphor: Visions of America in the Late 20th Century", Denver Art Museum; Columbus Museum Denver, CO; Columbus, OH
1993–1994
"Visual Arts Encounter: African-Americans and Europe", Salle Clemenceau, Palais du Luxembourg Paris, France
1993–1994
"Martin Puryear", Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art Cleveland, OH
1993
"Collective Pursuits: Mt. Holyoke Investigates Modernism", Mt. Holyoke College Art Museum South Hadley, MA
1993
"Yale Collects Yale", New Haven, CT
1993
"American Art in the 20th Century: Painting & Sculpture", Martin Gropius Bau; Royal Academy of Art Berlin, Germany; London, England
1993
"Drawing the Line Against AIDS", 45th Venice Biennale, Peggy Guggenheim Collection Venice, Italy
1992
"Allegories of Modernism: Contemporary Drawing", The Museum of Modern Art NYC
1991–1992
"Martin Puryear", Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL & travelling
1990
"Connections: Martin Puryear", Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA
1989
Margo Leavin Gallery Los Angeles, CA
1989
The 20th International Sao Paulo Bienal, Sao Paulo, Brazil
1988
"New Wall Sculpture", McIntosh/Drysdale Gallery Washington, D.C.
1987
David McKee Gallery NYC
1987
Donald Young Gallery Chicago, IL
1987
"Martin Puryear: Public and Personal", The Chicago Public Library Chicago, IL