Sculptor Martin Puryear to visit BMA for talk and reception

October 18, 1990|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Widely recognized sculptor Martin Puryear will visit the Baltimore Museum of Art on Sunday to discuss his works -- including one just purchased by the BMA -- and attend a reception in his honor.

Last year Puryear was awarded grand prize as the best artist in the prestigious Sao Paolo biennial in Brazil. A BMA statement refers to him as "the first African-American artist ever named to represent the United States at a major internation

art exhibition."

The museum's acquisition is "Lever #2," a 24-foot-long, 7-foot-high sculpture which, typical of Puryear's work, is a construction of handcrafted wood. According to Nancy Drysdale, Washington art dealer who exhibits Puryear's work, the BMA's sculpture was included in the Sao Paolo show and was pictured on the cover of the catalog published by the United States to accompany Puryear's exhibit there. The sculpture is now on view in the Fox Court, the columned central court of the original BMA building.

Puryear, 49, is a native of Washington, D.C., now living in upstate New York. Educated at Catholic University, Yale University and the Swedish Royal Academy, he was on the art faculty of the University of Maryland College Park from 1974 to 1978. His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan, Hirshhorn, Guggenheim and Whitney museums, among others.

Brenda Richardson, museum deputy director and curator of 20th century painting and sculpture, yesterday said of Puryear, "He has taken a major place in the world of art in my mind because of his combination of very riveting, aggressive form, with a very powerful visual presence, and craftsmanship -- commitment to hand works."

Richardson said Puryear's work fits naturally into the museum's collections. "Our primary focus in modern and contemporary art is in the tradition of abstraction, as opposed to figuration," she said. "It fits very beautifully into the framework of what we have."

"Lever #2" is a 1989 sculpture of rattan, ponderosa pine, ash and cypress. It was purchased with museum funds from the Modern Art Acquisition Fund established by the Caplan Family Trust and the Collector's Circle Fund. Richardson declined to say how much the museum paid for it. Drysdale said Puryear's work currently sells in the $100,000 to $200,000 range and that "Lever #2" is "one of his most important works."

Puryear will present a slide talk on his sculpture at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the museum's Woodward wing. A reception from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. will follow. Both events are open to the public free with the price of museum admission.

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