Noblesse O.


Martin Puryear ( American, 1941 )

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General Description

In Noblesse O. Martin Puryear sculpts with red cedar and then applies aluminum paint to contrast the natural with the man-made, and the interior form with the exterior surface. Puryear's interest in the properties of materials, geometry, and non-Western cultures is realized in a form that resides somewhere between abstraction and figuration, inviting varying interpretations. Puryear's meticulously crafted works transmit a poetic and enigmatic energy that emerges through the simplification of form, yet still possess evidence of the artist's hand.

Martin Puryear studied woodcrafting techniques in Africa and Scandinavia while serving as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in the 1960s. His respect for the value of these cultures and their traditional craft methods is embodied in this elegant funnel-like form, which appears to be a functional object but in fact has no direct counterpart or reference. The delicately shaded silver form may appear to be a simple cone, but the shifting proportions of the base and neck reveal Puryear's keen sense of shape and line as they shift according to the viewers' perception as they walk around the sculpture.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Noblesse (1987.350)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 326.

  • Charles Wylie, Re-Seeing the Contemporary: Selected from the Collection, 2010.