Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Martin Puryear

Gbows Gård, 1967

Aquatint, engraving, and etching

13" x 19.25"

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Gbows Gård

Few artists working in America today have received the critical acclaim imparted to Martin Puryear. Puryear began his art career in 1959, under the direction of painter Nell Sonneman at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Between 1964 and 1966, working as a teacher in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa, Puryear independently studied West African arts and crafts. In 1967, while enrolled at the Swedish Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm, he began to study carpentry. It was in Sweden that Puryear shifted his artistic focus from painting to sculpture. The highly refined wood surfaces popularly associated with the majority of his oeuvre fully developed during his tenure at Yale University's Graduate School (1969-1971).

In both his sculpture and his graphic works, form is reduced to simple shapes that define the essence of a given subject. Puryear's studious investigation of indigenous architectural forms from around the world appears to have informed many of his sculptures and prints. Gbows Gård is among the early graphic works done by the artist. According to Puryear, Gbows Gård illustrates the view, from his personal studio, of a Swedish neighbor's house or compound.

Puryear is an artist whose consummate skill as a draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, and painter (particularly his painted sculptures) allows him the freedom to reduce forms to their essential structure without compromising the integrity of a given composition. This talent for seeing and representing the quintessential nature of form transverses Puryear's work regardless of his chosen medium.  T. F.


David Driskell
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V.  Diaspora Identities
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Martin Puryear biography

Martin Puryear on the web

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