Martin Puryear Will Create a Monumental Brick Dome at Storm King

Departing from his typical palette of wood and steel, the celebrated American sculptor announces a site-specific work for the open-air museum’s permanent collection that nods to regional brickmaking.

Scale model of Martin Puryear’s permanent commission for Storm King Art Center. Photography by SandenWolff

It’s not often that Storm King Art Center adds a monumental new work to its permanent collection, but the idyllic Upstate New York sculpture park has now unveiled two in quick succession. In the spring, Sarah Sze debuted Fallen Sky, which features a delicate spherical cavity sheathed in mirrored stainless steel that distorts perceptions of the nearby rolling hills. If that wasn’t enough to attract new visitors for upcoming seasons, the beloved arts destination has announced that a major new site-specific work by Martin Puryear will join its permanent collection in 2023.  

Perched atop a clearing at the highest overlook in the metaphorical heart of Storm King, the 20-foot-tall dome-shaped folly will be made completely out of red bricks. It marks Puryear’s first use of the material—a nod to brickmaking as a once-primary industry in the Hudson Valley. “This work is especially significant for me because it’ll be a permanent artwork in Storm King’s extraordinary landscape,” Puryear says. “I’m taking the idea of permanence seriously—the materials I’m proposing to work with, the methodology I’m trying to employ, and the history of the material speaks to something timeless.” It’s the culmination of his recent explorations of traditional brick forms, referencing the bottle kilns at Stoke-on-Trent, Nubian vault-building techniques that he witnessed in Mali, and a former armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side where the brick masonry seemingly defies gravity. 

Sketch of Puryear’s commission. Image courtesy Storm King Art Center

“[Martin’s] sculpture for Storm King will be uniquely engaging,” says John P. Stern, president of Storm King. “Not just in material and scale, but also as a work that reveals itself to people in long views, up close, and from within as they walk inside and gaze back onto the landscape.” Rather than employing straight lines and solid walls, the sculpture seductively curves inward and upward, inviting contemplation within a dynamic interior that transforms from an arched opening to a high dome. An array of circular apertures paves the way for entirely new perspectives of the 500-acre emerald landscape of sky, native-grass meadows, and rolling hills. 

The dome will join the Art Center’s historic lineup of site-specific commissions that includes the undulating swells of earth forming Maya Lin’s Storm King Wavefield, meandering stone walls by Andy Goldsworthy that reference British agricultural traditions, and Kenneth Snelson’s monumental web of aluminum tubes that exemplify the principle of tensegrity. Its unveiling also coincides with a landmark exhibition of Puryear’s outdoor sculptures, which have largely been completed in a palette of wood and steel. “The sweep of this place moves me every time I come here,” Puryear says. “I’ve never seen another place where the partnership between nature and art is as majestic as it is here. At this stage in my life, to be invited to produce a work for Storm King is very special.”

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