American, b. 1941
Maquette for Big Bling, 2014
Birch plywood, maple, 22k gold leaf
40 1/2 x 9 1/8 x 40 in. (102.9 x 23.2 x 101.6 cm)
© Martin Puryear, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Before Puryear’s forty-foot-tall sculpture Big Bling was constructed in conventional building materials by industrial fabricators, engineers, and model-makers, the artist rendered the work, with its complexity of intricate intersecting grids, as a handmade wooden model. Commissioned for a temporary installation by the Madison Square Park Conservancy, Puryear intended the work to be in dialogue with New York City, saying,
“I see you New York. I see how you grow and compartmentalize and stratify. I see how you beckon and promise (and also how you exclude). And crowning it all like a beacon, I see your wealth, your gilded shackle, the golden ring (the bling), the prize, our pride, maybe even our success.”

To create the gilded shackle, the carved wooden original from Puryear’s model was enlarged, modeled in fiberglass-covered foam, and applied with 24-karat gold leaf. For Puryear, the word “shackle” suggests multiple connotations, including its industrial use in ships, and its more sinister historical use as a tool of bondage and subjugation of enslaved peoples. Big Bling is reminiscent of the form of Puryear’s cast iron work, Shackled (2013), on view outdoors.