— Art in Common

Martin Puryear, Pylons, 1995

For all the disappointments that MoMA has subjected us to since its reopening in 2005, at least one major solo show made me proud to be a New Yorker: Martin Puryear’s, in 2007. Cogent, serious, historically minded, indifferent to the border between the constructed and the organic, his sculpture is such a rare pleasure in today’s art world that it’s actually a little hard to describe it. Along the Hudson River promenade in lower Manhattan, down by the harbor, these two towering works (they are two works, not one) speak volumes about Puryear’s balancing act between nature and culture, specificity and universality. One cascades out, the other telescopes in, but both of them seem simultaneously in dialogue with the skyline and unconcerned with it. Puryear, better than any other artist I can think of, knows how to negotiate the rendezvous between form and politics with an ease Dick Diver would envy, and these are among my favorite works of public art anywhere in the city.

Though it’s difficult, of course, to see two towering forms in Lower Manhattan, especially when they’re named Pylons, and not think about what’s happened since 1995.

Pylons is just north of the North Cove, the harbor in Battery Park; you can get there along the waterfront or walk through the Winter Garden.