Martin Puryear’s "Vessel." (Martin Puryear/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery)

One of the more celebrated artists to hail from Washington, Martin Puryear, 74, has become widely known for his sometimes enigmatic sculptures that blend traditional craftsmanship with serious intent and occasional whimsy.

One of Puryear’s most monumental sculptures, “Bearing Witness,” has stood like a four-story exclamation point at Federal Triangle in Northwest Washington for nearly 20 years. And “Big Bling,” a temporary installation that’s just as tall, opened this week in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park. More often, Puryear’s elegant, gallery-size creations in wood and stone are fraught with considerations of culture and self-examination.

This week, “Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions,” a major retrospective of his drawings and lithographs as well as several sculptures, opens at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Here are some numbers about the exhibition.


Days after Puryear’s 75th birthday that “Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions” opens at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


The year Puryear received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Catholic University.


Years Puryear spent in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone — 1964-1966. Also, the number of years he studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in Stockholm — 1966-1968.


The year Puryear’s Brooklyn studio burned and when he had his first solo show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.


Span, in years, of the work featured in “Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions.”


Sculptures in the exhibition.


Works from the Smithsonian American Art collection in the exhibition, including Puryear’s 1980 wood sculpture “Bower.”

101 / 2

Height, in feet, of the tallest sculpture in the show, Puryear’s 1982 “Sanctuary,” made of pine, maple and cherry.

231 / 2

Height, in inches, of Puryear’s 1982 untitled drawing for “Sanctuary.”


Variations of the artist’s elephant-like 2009 tabletop sculptures, which are made of bronze, white bronze and Honduras mahogany.


Woodcuts featured from the 2000 edition of the novel “Cane” by Jean Toomer, first published in 1923.


Kinds of wood used for a circular untitled sculpture from 1982: maple sapling, pear wood and yellow cedar.


Length, in yards, of the largest sculpture in the exhibition, “Vessel,” in which an ampersand seems imprisoned in the wooden bones of one of Puryear’s “Face Down” sculptures.

593 / 4

Height, in inches, of the 1994 pine “Maquette for Bearing Witness” on display.


Height, in feet, of “Bearing Witness,” the 1997 bronze sculpture installed outside the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Federal Triangle.


Estimated weight of “Bearing Witness,” commissioned by the General Services Administration and colloquially referred to as “the Thumb.”

$1 million

Cost of “Bearing Witness” when it was installed as part of the GSA’s Art in Architecture program, which commissions art for new federal buildings.


Weeks “Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions” will be on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Ring affixed to the top of the iron 2014 sculpture “Shackled,” the newest work in the exhibition and the basis of “Big Bling,” the 40-foot work installed in New York this month.


Weeks “Big Bling” will be on display at Madison Square Park.


Museums where “Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions” will have been displayed. Before coming to Washington, it was at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago, which organized the show.


Years since the last major Puryear retrospective in his native city — 2008 at the National Gallery of Art.


Cost of admission to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions Friday through Sept. 5 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 800 G St. NW. 202-633-1000 or Free.