Martin Puryear. Fern from Cane. 2000

Martin Puryear Fern from Cane 2000

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 509 The David Geffen Wing

Puryear collaborated on a reedition of Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923), a classic of African American literature from the Harlem Renaissance. Toomer's experimental novel consists of a series of vignettes, set across the northern and southern United States, in which Black protagonists encounter violence, racism, spirituality, and desire. Echoing *Cane*’s keen attention to racial identity, Puryear’s slipcase is crafted of woods native to Africa, Europe, and North America that evoke a range of skin colors. His accompanying abstract woodcuts are named after the female characters in the novel. “The challenge,” Puryear said, “was to create a set of images that would relate together in a familial way, suggestive of the narrative but not overtly so.”

Gallery label from 2020
Jean Toomer
One from the supplementary suite of an illustrated book with ten woodcuts and a supplementary suite of seven woodcuts
composition: 10 7/16 x 12 11/16" (26.5 x 32.3 cm); sheet: 16 3/4 x 20 11/16" (42.5 x 52.5 cm)
Arion Press, San Francisco
Arion Press, San Francisco
Gift of Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro
Object number
© Martin Puryear, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Illustrated book
Drawings and Prints

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