John Yau’s monograph on Martin Puryear will examine the artist’s emphasis on a direct engagement with materials, which runs counter to the late modernist trend toward an increasing absence of craft on the part of the artist in favor of impersonality. Yau claims that Puryear’s vision is neither reactionary nor nostalgic, but rather a deeply rigorous rethinking of received assumptions. He contends that the artist’s determination to make work that stands apart from every aesthetic and theoretical agenda, while negotiating such issues as African American history and the individual’s relationship to society and culture, amounts to one of the most remarkable achievements in postwar art. The book will cover Puryear’s entire career, including a new body of work begun since his retrospective at MoMa in 2007.

John Yau is a poet and freelance critic whose reviews and essays have appeared in numerous magazines, including Arts, Artforum, Art in America, and Art News. He has published more than 200 essays on art and has contributed to catalogues and monographs on sculptors Deborah Butterfield, Mark di Suvero, Tim Hawkinson, Jessica Stockholder, and Jackie Winsor. He has written extensively about artists whose work cannot be categorized according to the dominant narratives, including Richard Artschwager, Wifredo Lam, Catherine Murphy, Thomas Nozkowski, Sylvia Plimack-Mangold, and Peter Saul. Since 2004, he has been the arts editor of the Brooklyn Rail. Yau is an associate professor at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.