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east column 163 × 36 × 36 inches
On view at the Walker Art Center

Object Details

Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of Margaret and Angus Wurtele, 1988

artwork entry Martin Puryear, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 1998

The stately pair of 14-foot stone columns that flank the main entrance to the Garden at its southern end were fashioned from a huge block of granite Martin Puryear found at the Cold Spring quarries, 75 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Puryear drove spikes into the massive stone to split it in two, and then used a machine lathe—like a pencil sharpener—to hone each piece into its final form. One end of each column retains the block shape and rough natural surfaces of the original stone, while the other end has been shaped into a smooth, elegantly tapered conical form. Similar contrasts of form and surface appear throughout Puryear’s work, in which such opposites as nature and culture, the organic and the machine-made, and primitive and modern coexist in harmony. By installing the columns in opposite directions—one on its pointed end, the other on its square base—Puryear also comments on the contrast between stability and instability and offers an intentional challenge to the formal symmetry of the southern half of the Garden

Jenkins, Janet, ed. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 1998, no. 1.

© 1998 Walker Art Center

curriculum resource Martin Puryear, Ampersand (1987-1988) Walker Art Center, 1998

Flanking the main entrance to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is Ampersand, a sculpture by Martin Puryear made with two 14-foot granite columns. The artist sculpted the columns from a single rectangular block of granite that he split in two. Then he used a machine lathe–similar to a giant pencil sharpener–to shape each piece into its final form. The artist intentionally left a portion of the column “unfinished” to emphasize the texture and natural quality of the stone. Like the Garden, which is symmetrical and balanced in its layout, the columns are nearly identical. However, Puryear varies the symmetry of the columns by installing them in opposite directions–one on its cylindrical end, the other on its square base. By doing this, the artist calls attention to the smooth, polished, round shape of one column and the rough texture and massive rectangular shape of the other column.

Text for Martin Puryear, Ampersand (1987-1988), from the curriculum guide The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: A Garden for All Seasons, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1998.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center

object label letters between Martin Puryear and the Walker Art Center regarding AMPERSAND (1988) , 1998

Martin Puryear was commissioned to make a new work for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden before the design of the Garden was finalized. An artist who has always maintained a high level of craftsmanship in his work while addressing the relationship between nature and culture, Puryear originally suggested a stone arch. This inspired the Walker curators to site the sculpture at the entrance to the Garden. After studying the models and plans from architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, Puryear relinquished the arch idea (feeling it would obscure the view of SPOONBRIDGE AND CHERRY) and suggested that something more akin to gateposts, designed for a plaza with seating, would better suit the chosen site.

Once the form was decided upon – two stone pillars made from a single slab of granite, emphasizing symmetry and asymmetry – conversations were initiated about their placement, structural integrity, and title. Names considered for the pair of columns included biblical references to Miriam and Moses, and Gog and Magog. The final title, AMPERSAN, is the word for the symbol “&,” which means “and.” The pieces were made with stone from the Cold Spring quarry in Minnesota. Puryear traveled there to help shape them, and he was also on hand when the work was installed. He is pictured here with Director Emeritus Martin Friedman (both are on the left; Friedman is wearing a hat). The close relationship between the Walker and Puryear in the creation of this commission is representative of the level of support provided all commissioned artists at the Walker.

Label text for letters between Martin Puryear and the Walker Art Center regarding AMPERSAND (1988), Collection Walker Art Center Archives, from the exhibition Commission Possible: Walker Art Center, 1980-1998, Andersen Window Gallery, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, November 21, 1998-August 1, 1999.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center