There's No Place Like NoMad

May 8, 2019

Madison Square Park Conservancy Presents Martin Puryear Exhibit at Venice Biennale Starting May 11

Via the New York Times
Martin Puryear’s “Swallowed Sun (Monstrance and Volute),” at the U.S. Pavilion of the Venice Biennale.

After months of anticipation and preparation, the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia will officially open on Saturday, May 11, 2019. And at the U.S. Pavilion at the Biennale Arte, history will be made with the unveiling of Martin Puryear: Liberty/Martin Puryear: Libertà, presented by Madison Square Park Conservancy and curated by its own public art curator Brooke Kamin Rappaport. 


The NoMad Connection

The Martin Puryear exhibit marks the first time in history that the U.S. Pavilion of the Biennale has been commissioned and curated by an organization dedicated entirely to public art.

Madison Square Park Conservancy has had a world-class public arts program in and around the park for many years, with one of its most exciting exhibits, Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon, bringing the park’s program to international fame.  The quality and breadth of the program has enriched the lives of all of us who work and/or live around the park and this Biennale presentation is a natural extension of the park’s art activity, established expertise, and growing reputation to the world stage.

Since her appointment in 2013, Deputy Director Brooke Kamin Rappaport, who is Martin Friedman Senior Curator, has asked leading artists to push the boundaries of their practice and create risk-taking new works that experiment with materiality, scale, and theme in response to the park’s unique environment. As a result, the park has commissioned public sculpture exhibitions by noted contemporary artists that include (among others) Diana Al-Hadid, Tony Cragg, Josiah McElheny, Iván Navarro, and most recently Arlene Shechet.  The Conservancy first partnered with American sculptor Martin Puryear on the commission of a public art installation of his monumental sculpture Big Bling, displayed in Madison Square Park in 2016.

Via the New York Times
Mr. Puryear’s “A Column for Sally Hemings” within the U.S. Pavilion of the Venice Biennale.


Via the New York Times
Left: Detail of Mr. Puryear’s abstract “Cloister-Redoubt or Cloistered Doubt,” 2019. Right: Mr. Puryear’s “New Voortrekker,” 2018.

Martin Puryear

Martin Puryear (b. 1941) is an American sculptor whose work is internationally recognized for inherent symbolism and subtlety in the power of form. The second African-American artist in a row to represent the U.S. at the Biennale, Puryear was raised Roman Catholic, attended segregated public schools through the sixth grade, and spent his childhood exploring the collections of the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. After college, he served in the Peace Corps in Africa, teaching science and language.

Coming into his own as an artist in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, Puryear responded to the racial unrest of his day by developing a rigorous methodology. He learned local woodworking and carpentry techniques, consolidating and refining his skills in subsequent years through the study of Japanese architecture and garden design, Native American canoe and Greenland kayak construction, and furniture making (both Scandinavian modernist and Shaker).

All of these influences have since come to inform Puryear’s signature approach to sculpture, which to this day combines a unique sense of form with nuanced social commentary.

“For more than five decades, Martin Puryear has created a body of work distinguished by a complex visual vocabulary and deeply-considered meaning,” says Rappaport, “His exacting method and subtle power of nuance has influenced generations of artists in the U.S. and internationally…Madison Square Park Conservancy is proud to partner with Puryear and bring our expertise and experience as an institution dedicated to public art to the U.S. Pavilion, which provides a critical spotlight on one of the most significant and influential artists working today.”

Puryear’s work is in the permanent collections of major museums across the U.S. and internationally.  He he has won many awards too numerous to mention here, including the United States Medal of Freedom.

Via the New York Times
Mr. Puryear at the U.S. Pavilion of the Venice Biennale.

About the Exhibit

Martin Puryear: Liberty/Martin Puryear: Libertà meditates on liberty as an essential human theme. Featuring new sculpture and a monumental installation that will activate the forecourt of the neoclassical U.S. Pavilion, the exhibition of works commissioned by the Madison Square Park Conservancy will challenge expectations about how everyday forms found around the world can be elevated into highly resonant objects transforming perception, inspiring individuals, and questioning history.

Since its inception in 1895, the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia has grown into one of the most acclaimed contemporary art exhibitions in the world. Every two years, the Biennale displays exciting new art, architecture, cinema, dance, music, and theatre from around the world to the world.  This year, 90 exhibitors are expected, and the organizers anticipate that over a half a million people will view the Biennale before it closes in late November.

Martin Puryear: Liberty/Martin Puryear: Libertà will be on view at the U.S Pavilion at the Biennale Arte from May 11 through November 24, 2019.


Support the Madison Square Park Conservancy

We’d like to take the moment of this tremendous milestone in the park’s history to remind all members of the NoMad community that this international recognition of the park and Conservancy points up the prodigious contribution they make to our neighborhood.  The significant gifts the Conservancy has given us in terms of expertise and hard work have made the 6-acre Madison Square Park one of the outstanding parks in the world.

The park runs solely on private donations.  Please consider helping the park continue its remarkable work.  You can find out how at this link.