Marking the latest exhibition at both Los Angeles exhibition spaces, Matthew Marks has launched an expansive of works by Martin Puryear that also makes for the artist’s first solo show in the city in over 30 years. Compiling a range of works that revisit Puryear’s material adventurousness and tight examination of structural and historical progressions, including seven sculptures made over the past five years in a variety of media including wood, bronze, and stone.
The show is adventurous in both form and concept, with a range of new concepts and imagery from the artist mingling with work from his Venice Biennale US Pavilion show in 2019. Looking Askance (2023), is constructed from red cedar and pine and finished with an oil-based paint in silvery gray. From one side, the sculpture evokes the shape of a colossal head, a form that has appeared in the artist’s work through the decades. From the other side, the work reveals a flat surface with a curved tubular opening crossing through the volume’s interior, which foregrounds the artist’s craftsmanship alongside his interest in dialectical oppositions.
In another work, Aso Oke, the shape of the bulging latticework is inspired by the Nigerian hat of the same name made from handwoven cloth. Puryear built a seven-foot-tall pattern in rattan and twine in his studio, which he then cast in bronze. A new version of A Column for Sally Hemings (2021), previously exhibited in the US Pavilion is also on view. The base of the sculpture is fluted like the Pavilion’s Doric columns, which were modeled on those at Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, where Sally Hemings was enslaved. Carved from white marble, the sculpture’s base tapers at its top like the waist of a skirt. Set into the marble is a cast-iron stake culminating in a ring, a form that first appeared in Puryear’s work in the 2014 sculpture Shackle, and which emphasizes layered notions of enslavement, captivity and history through these disparate oppositional modes.
Throughout, one is always aware of the negotiation of form and history, Puryear’s work eking out delicate conversational points and touchstones in a broader conversation of race, identity and structure. The show closes April 8th.
– B. Cole
Martin Puryear at Matthew Marks [Exhibition Site]