Martin Puryear

November 08, 2008 - January 25, 2009

Made from a variety of natural materials — including wood, tar, rawhide, and stone — Martin Puryear's distinctive sculptures combine modernist geometry with international craft traditions. Influenced by woodworking, basketry, and construction techniques, the pieces at times resemble familiar objects. By blending cultural references, however, Puryear avoids fixed associations of time and place. This major retrospective charts the artist's career from his first solo show in 1977 to the present. SFMOMA's presentation includes a special installation in the Haas Atrium including Ladder for Booker T Washington (1996), made from a 36-foot-long split sapling, and Ad Astra (2007), a 63-foot-tall work that rises to the museum's fifth-floor bridge.

Martin Puryear is organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The San Francisco presentation of Martin Puryear is generously supported by The Bernard Osher Foundation, the Wurtele Family Foundation, and SFMOMA's Collectors Forum. Additional support is provided by Martha and John Gabbert and Room & Board.

  • Puryear, installation shot of wooden sculpture
    Martin Puryear, C.F.A.O., 2006-7; painted and unpainted pine and found wheelbarrow; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Sid Bass, Leon D. Black, Donald L. Bryant, Jr., Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Agnes Gund, Mimi Haas, Marie-Jose and Henry R. Kravis, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, Donald B. Marron and Jerry Speyer on behalf of the Committee on Painting and Sculpture in honor of John Elderfield; 2008 Martin Puryear; photo: Richard P. Goodbody
  • Puryear, geometric wooden sculpture
    Martin Puryear, Sharp and Flat, 1987; pine; Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson; 2008 Martin Puryear; image courtesy McKee Gallery, New York
  • Puryear, sculptures installed on wall
    Martin Puryear, Some Tales, 1975-78; Panza Collection; 2008 Martin Puryear; photo: Giorgio Colombo, Milan
  • Puryear, wooden lattice sculpture
    Martin Puryear, Brunhilde, 1998-2000; collection of the artist; 2008 Martin Puryear; photo: Richard P. Goodbody
  • Puryear, perspectival shot of wooden ladder sculpture
    Martin Puryear, Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; gift of Ruth Carter Stevenson, by exchange; 2008 Martin Puryear; photo: David Wharton
  • Puryear, sculpture installation shot
    Martin Puryear, Le Prix, 2005; Gretchen and John Berggruen, San Francisco; 2008 Martin Puryear; image courtesy Donald Young Gallery, Chicago
  • Puryear, sculpture with layered strips of wood in organic shape
    Martin Puryear, Old Mole, 1985; Philadelphia Museum of Art; purchased with gifts (by exchange) of Samuel S. White 3rd and Vera White, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles C.G. Chaplin and with funds contributed by Marion Boulton Stroud, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kardon, Gisela and Dennis Alter, and Mrs. H. Gates Lloyd; 2008 Martin Puryear; image courtesy Donald Young Gallery, Chicago