Puryear at MoMA
Post #1132 • February 28, 2008, 2:36 PM • 134 Comments
New York - I class Martin Puryear with Robert Irwin as a sensible, serious, genuine artist whom I wish I liked better than I do. Early Puryear, especially, satisfies any standard for elegance and workmanship. They represent some of the few examples of a refined abstract sensibility that uses narrative impulses without succumbing to them, which it would have done in less able hands. Probably nothing would look handsomer in MoMA's cavernous second-floor exhibition space than his 1996 Ladder for Booker T. Washington, extended exaggeratedly upward in its crafted yet rickety beauty. But his more recent works take on the quality of montage, even pastiche. A vague but identifiable Japanese aesthetic keeps the earlier works from looking too slick, and that handsome roughness has given away to an unhelpfully polished technique such as in his 2005 A Distant Place, or the 2006-7 C.F.A.O., which assembles an interpretation of a Fang mask, a wheelbarrow from the Calder studio, and Puryear's signature matrix of slats without harmonizing any of them. I thought in spite of myself of late de Kooning, not out of any sense of dissipation, but in watching a real talent in late career struggle against perfunctory performance. The exhibition has an unlinkable Flash site.