There are many people in the history of art whose works I adore, but the one work of their's I have access to is not my fave. Martin Puryear is an artist who I have been a fan of since I came across his stuff at the MoMA years ago. Just about the only piece there that I did not connect with was Dumb Luck. The whole Dumb Objects thing is weird to me, and here the name seems to refer to the shape of the piece, roughly lock-like, but at the same time, calling to mind a shoe. Or a coffee cup. Or a pacifier. But it's none of those. It's a dumb object; it's of a form that is useless, dumb, functionless, like all art, right?
The problem for me here, and not with at least passingly similar works by the likes of Ruth Asawa, is that it has nothing beyond that. Yes, I get that it's kinda the point here, but there is making that point with something like Asawa's hanging 'baskets' that creates something in the space where it is exhibited, while this, this is just there, not just a dumb object, but an object that draws you in with the promise of 0% payoff.
And that's what Puryear is really good at! He draws, he leaves breadcrumbs for you to follow, but in his other work (and the 2008 MoMA exhibit demonstrates it beautifully), you don't feel like you've been led into a field and left alone. Here, that's what I feel, and it's annoying more than thoughtful.
One of my favorite things about MoMA in New York is the fact that they get it; sometimes artists get lost. Marisol, the nom du arte of Marisol Escobar, was a sculptor who passed away in 2016. Her works are often called 'folky' and it certainly fits with many of her pieces, but the Pop Art sculptures she delivers are pretty damned impressive, especially when she played hard with titling. My Favorite piece of hers, and one of my favorite under-appreciated MoMA works, is Portrain of Sidney Janis Selling Portrait of Sidney Janis by Marisol, by Marisol. That titles, practically a Christopher Williams' title, is especially damning. Sidney Janis, famed art dealer. What we're not told in the title, or even by the positioning, is which is which. Is the cross-armed gentleman in the tux the life dealer selling the sporty portrait in wood as the image of himself to the world. Is the Captain Morgan-leaning version reality and the staid, confident one the portrait for sale? It's not answered, but the idea that this is a piece about representation, about how art figures present themselves to the world and the reality, about the intersection of an artist's work and the dealer and the subject of that work, all of that comes together in this marvelous piece.
Christopher J Garcia - Curator, Fan Writer, Podcaster, and a guy who just loves art.