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The 77year-old sculptor and African-American artist Martin Puryear has been announced representing U.S Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, opening next May.

“Martin is one of the most important artists working today,” said Brooke Kamin Rapaport,  deputy director and senior curator of the Madison Square Park Conservancy, who  will curate the United States Pavilion “His work confronts contemporary issues and he has by now influenced generations of artists in our country and internationally.”

During a 40-year career, Mr. Puryear has been acclaimed for large scale works in wood, stone and metals that display strong craft traditions and explore issues of ethnicity, culture and history.

Puryear is the second African American artist in a row to represent the US in the important institutional venue in Venice, following last one, Mark Bradford with his critically acclaimed project “Tomorrow is Another Day”.

This is also a quite special event as it marks the  first time that a no profit institution for public art, as it is the Madison Square Park Conservancy, has been selected to organize the US pavilion in Venice.  In 2016, Madison park hosted Puryear’s sculpture Big Bling, a 40-foot-tall curved tower of chainlink fencing and plywood, topped with a shackle gilded in 22-karat gold leaf.

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Martin Puryear, Big Bling (2016). Photo courtesy of Madison Square Park.

Describing this work the artist at the time said: “This enormous wooden construction was conceived by me as a kind of visual praise poem, an ode, to New York City,” “It was my way of saying: I see you New York. I see how you grow and compartmentalize and stratify. I see how you beckon and promise (and also how you exclude). And crowning it all like a beacon, I see your wealth, your gilded shackle, the golden ring (the bling), the prize, our pride, maybe even our success.” 

These words seems to echo Rapaport explanation on their decision for his name.“Martin Puryear confronts contemporary issues as a maker of objects in the studio. For more than five decades, Puryear has created a body of work distinguished by a complex visual vocabulary and deeply-considered meaning.”

This approach, as in previous Bradford case, could be really interesting for these very critical contemporary times.

First of all by there’s the  fact that, despite  the President Donald Trump intention cut cultural agencies support, funding for international exhibitions like the Venice Biennale is a due which comes from the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961, whose purpose was to “enable the Government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” No matter off cons or against the existing political trends.

The US pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Photo by Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images.

Also this time the US government grant is $375,000, which includes $125,000 earmarked for staffing the pavilion during the exhibition’s run, though that total must usually be supplemented by outside funding.

Mr. Puryear’s selection was first reported by ArtNews and Jerry Saltz of New York magazine, and just later officially confirmed by The New York Times. The announcement, however,just comes several months later than Bradford’s did in 2017, in August rather than April, and there is not yet a page for the 2019 Venice Art Biennale on the State Department website (As it happened also for the Architecture Venice Biennale)

Let’s see the project next May!

– The 58th Venice Biennale will take place May 11–November 24, 2019 – 




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