press release

BALTIC presents the first large-scale exhibition in the UK of the work of artist Martin Puryear. This major exhibition includes eight sculptural works, presented alongside a selection of prints in BALTIC’s level four art space. Puryear, a leading exponent of U.S. post-Minimalist sculpture, creates large-scale, ambiguous and enigmatic, semi-abstract sculptures. With an emphasis on process and materials, Puryear uses a vocabulary of simple reductive forms to create works with a strong and direct physical presence that reference recognisable objects. With an approach which is predominantly based around traditional craft techniques, the artist draws on techniques of woodworking, furniture making, basketry and boat making; Puryear works primarily in wood, creating meticulously hand-crafted sculptures which are often painted or combined with manmade material, such as wire and tar. Key works in this presentation include Brunhilde, (1998 – 2000), an elegant, latticed structure with bent, cone-shaped corners, which resembles a giant sack or bag, made of laminated strips of red cedar which flow from an oval base and converge at the top corners. Confessional, (1996 – 2000), is a huge bulging form crafted from wire mesh, tar and wood. Puryear’s work often presents dual meanings and contradictions in both physical forms as well as in their potential meaning or significance. Whilst essentially abstract, his work often contains references to organic forms or physical objects - vessels, huts, nets - yet his sculptures avoid specific definition. His works using wire mesh coated with tar present the dual physical qualities of appearing both dense/solid and transparent/fragile at the same time. A similar effect is achieved in his laminated cedar and mahogany forms which appear solid and massive, yet are in fact hollow and lightweight. An extensive knowledge of nature, wildlife, history and geography as well as an interest in Native American, African, Scandinavian, Japanese and Arctic cultures, have been major influences on Puryear’s visual language. During the 1960’s Puryear studied carpentry and woodworking in Sierra Leone in West Africa, and in Sweden he pursued his interests in sculpture, Scandinavian wood design, cabinetry and furniture making working as an assistant to world-famous cabinet maker James Krenov where he developed sophisticated techniques for working with wood. Martin Puryear’s work can be seen at BALTIC from 27 September – 30 November 2003; following its presentation at BALTIC the exhibition tours to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin from 21 January -9 May 2004.

only in german

Martin Puryear
Ort: Level 4 art space