Martin Puryear

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Martin Puryear’s serene but disquieting installation was the inaugural exhibition of the museum’s ongoing “Connections” series, in which artists are invited to design an installation based on a historical image or object that has inspired their work. Puryear chose a 17th-century painting from the museum’s collection of a tethered falcon, by an unidentified Indian artist, and several hand-colored prints by John James Audubon, who traveled throughout North America in the 19th century to document the continent’s bird life. In the slender space leading into the gallery of Puryear’s work, the small, delicately rendered Indian painting of the captive bird of prey, its back to the viewer, held center stage. Audubon’s driven process of documentation, which often involved the construction of armatures to prop up recently killed specimens, anticipated the dialectic between freedom and restraint that

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