With a Dazzling Work by Martin Puryear, Storm King Looks Ahead

Hudson Valley’s sprawling museum and sculpture park recently unveiled an amorphous brick installation by Martin Puryear—and $45 million in planned renovations to benefit visitors and exhibiting artists alike.

'Lookout' by Martin Puryear at Storm King. Credit (all images): Jeffrey Jenkins.

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.

The installation—a major moment for both artist and institution—comes at a moment that sees the art center proactively planning for its longevity. “We’re really excited to have a space that feels like it’s up to what we’re asking from our artists,” says Nora Lawrence, the art center’s creative director and chief curator. “We can show visitors more of what we can do. That’s why the capital project is so important. We want this place to provide a public service.”

In the spring of 2024, the museum plans to welcome artists and enthusiasts alike to an expanded campus: a collaborative effort between WXY Architects, Ireland’s Heneghan Peng Architects, Reed Hilderbrand, and Gustafson Porter + Bowman. The capital project touches on a number of additions and renovations, among them building 12 more acres of exhibition space, a facility for sculpture maintenance and repair, and, with any luck, easily accessible indoor plumbing.

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