All posts in “Noguchi”

Object of the Week: Thicket

In honor of Black History Month, Object of the Week will—throughout the month of February—highlight works by celebrated Black artists in the SAM Collection.

I never did Minimalist art. I never did, but I got real close. . . . I looked at it, tasted it, and I spat it out.

– Martin Puryear, 1978

Known for his highly crafted, abstract sculptures, Martin Puryear since the 1970s has created three-dimensional works that defy easy interpretation and categorization, at once evoking Modernist sculptures by Noguchi, Arp, and Brancusi, while calling to mind African sculptural traditions and Scandinavian design.

A former painter, Puryear’s hand-crafted sculptures offer a highly original response to the Minimalism of the 1960s. And while he indeed embraces Minimalism’s penchant for reductive sculptural forms, his material and fabrication choices evince a commitment to elevating craft and its complement: the handmade. Using materials such as wood, stone, tar, bronze, and wire, Puryear’s greatest collaborator—the natural world—is made clear.

From a young age Puryear was fascinated by how things are made, and would often construct his own objects from wood—whether it be a guitar or a canoe. Decades later, while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, Puryear observed and absorbed local artistic traditions like woodworking, pottery, and weaving. Together, these experiences—coupled with his time at the Swedish Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm, where he studied furniture design—helped shape Puryear’s practice and interest in mobilizing design, sculpture, and craft in the service of examining identity, culture, and history.

The work pictured here, Thicket, is inspired by the shape and volume of a small rock Puryear found while on a trip to the Alaskan wilderness in 1980. Interwoven basswood and cypress give the piece a complex, tangled appearance. Both orderly and chaotic, the crisscrossed beams, struts, and posts are informed by the low Arctic vegetation that houses and protects the snowshoe hare—a rare breed endemic to the region.

In the words of the artist:

I want to make objects that somehow have their own history and their own reason for being and their own sense of themselves. I’m not concerned just with the object’s formal meaning, although it should be an intelligible artifact, a thing of one’s own culture and time. It’s equally crucial that there exist in the work a recognition of the maker, of who I am.[1]

Puryear’s sculptures manage to transcend time and space—blending together artistic traditions from around the world. Further, he is still one of the most important and influential artists working today, a fact confirmed by the recent announcement that he will represent the United States at the 58th Venice Biennale in the spring.

 – Elisabeth Smith, Collection & Provenance Associate

[1] John Ederfield, Martin Puryear (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2007), 173.
Image: Thicket, 1990, Martin Puryear, basswood and cypress, 67 x 62 x 17 in., Gift of Agnes Gund, 90.32 © Martin Puryear (1990)
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Muse/News: Tech in museums, revolutionary fashion, and the magic of akari

SAM News

The museum’s first-ever Chief Technology Officer, Manish Engineer, appeared on Geekwire’s podcast to talk about his path to SAM, his plans for the institution, and the balance he wants to strike between art and technology.

“’I always want to make sure that people are looking at the art more so than anything else,’ he said. ‘When you think of things like visual hierarchy, I want to make sure that the art is first and on top of hierarchy.’ And that phone or tablet with its supplemental information? ‘I want to make sure that’s secondary,’ he said.”

Kerry James Marshall’s Past Times recently set an auction high for any work by a living African-American artist; The New York Times’s Scott Reyburn wrote about the rise of value for works by Black artists. He notes that these shifts are also reflected in curatorial choices; SAM’s recent Figuring History exhibition and current Basquiat painting on view are referenced.

Local News

Vogue features Indigenous fashion designers, in advance of Toronto’s first-ever Indigenous Fashion Week; blankets by Bethany Yellowtail are available at Seattle’s Eighth Generation.

Who went Upstream this weekend? Seattle Times music writer Michael Rietmulder attended and tweeted all weekend; here’s his take from the first day of the second edition of the music festival.

City Arts’ June cover photo of Prairie Underground’s Davora Lindner is amazing; don’t miss Amanda Manitach’s fantastic profile of Davora, either.

“’Prairie Underground embodies the idea of political uprising, insurrection and a secret society,’ Lindner says.”

Inter/National News

On the newsstands: The New Yorker’s annual Fiction Issue, with cover art by artist Loveis Wise; it was her debut for the magazine and also only the second time a Black woman’s art has been featured on the cover.

Raise your hand if you have an electric paper lantern in your home: yep, that’s everyone. Artsy traces Isamu Noguchi’s creation of the simple—yet magical—forms of akari.

What happens when you’ve booked a show four years ago—called Casanova: The Seduction of Europeand it’s opening now in the age of #MeToo? Hyperallergic’s Emily Wilson shares what San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum did.

“’The simplest problem to fix is framing his rapes as seductions and Casanova as a kind of sexy scoundrel,’ she said. ‘We can avoid glorifying or censuring and try to imagine if, instead of a wealthy white European man, this story was told through some of the women of the time.’”

And Finally

It’s June!!

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

Photo: GeekWire Photo / Clare McGrane
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