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Lever #1

Sculpture of wooden panels shaped like an abstract chair with a deep narrow base.
© Martin Puryear

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  • Sculpture of wooden panels shaped like an abstract chair with a deep narrow base.




Martin Puryear
American, born 1941

About this artwork

Martin Puryear has produced an expertly handcrafted body of sculpture characterized by extreme elegance of form and organic simplicity. Influenced by his travels through Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States, Puryear fuses modern traditions—his work pays homage to Constantin Brâncusi, Jean Arp, and Scandinavian furniture designers—with non-Western architecture, sculpture, and craft. Consisting of a tall, narrow, wood vessel and a dramatically arched top flap that seems poised to slam down upon it, Lever #1 exemplifies the artist’s ongoing exploration of the relationship between interior space, form, and volume. The sculpture suggests an array of possible associations, including a deep-hulled boat, a coffin, or sexual themes. It also reflects some of the most celebrated methods of avant-garde art, notably Constructivism and assemblage. While the sculpture alludes to recognizable forms and subjects, Puryear intended for it to remain independent of specific interpretations. The surface is alive with the remnants of glue, staples, and other marks of construction; these residual effects serve as a reminder that, above all else, the work is about the process of making sculpture.


Currently Off View


Contemporary Art


Martin Puryear


Lever #1


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Red cedar, cypress, poplar, and ash


429.3 × 340.4 × 45 cm (169 × 134 × 17 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

A. James Speyer Memorial, UNR Industries in honor of James W. Alsdorf, and Barbara Neff Smith and Solomon Byron Smith funds

Reference Number



© Martin Puryear

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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