Is it a Croc? Or perhaps a thumb? Martin Puryear’s latest feat, a site-specific installation located on the sprawling, 500-acre grounds of Storm King Art Center, is neither. Puryear described Lookout as more akin to a “grotto” or a “brick pouch.” His first work in brick has come together decades after first broaching the idea of a permanent work with former Storm King director David Collens. In the intervening years, the New York–based sculptor has accrued a multitude of honors and recognition for his work: a 2011 Medal of Arts and exhibitions of MoMA, the National Gallery of Art, and Smithsonian American Art Museum. In 2019, he represented the United States at the 58th Venice Biennale.
Set among the picturesque Hudson Highlands about an hour outside of Manhattan, Storm King gives visitors a multidimensional lesson in scale; Puryear’s Lookout is no exception. Critics have pointed out that themes of shelter, African American history, and a balance between representation and abstraction have permeated his practice from the beginning, and Lookout brings it all together in a fantastical way. Nubian vaulting, an ancient bricklaying technique developed in Egypt, gives the structure its concave shape and cathedral-like pitch. Inside, 90 circular openings impart the tantalizing illusion of peering into another universe.