With these experiences behind him, Puryear’s return to America in 1969 as a student at Yale University led him to New York’s likeminded circle of Minimalists including sculptors Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Dan Flavin. It was during this time that Puryear fully matured as an artist, applying the minimalist’s rejection of embellishment in order to craft sculptures with an aesthetic reliant on simple geometric forms. In this way, His Eminence, reflects both the traditional modesty from his early international influences and the effortless sophistication of American modernity. Upon close observation, the viewer can appreciate the skill Puryear employed when carving the red cedar, leaving a smoothly rounded, tactile surface. In Puryear’s later works such as this, he wanted his sculptures to reflect things found in nature, relating back to his background in biology. As such, Puryear’s personifying and provocative title imbues this work with an anatomical undertone as “eminence,” a reference to the extension from the circular base, might allude to an elevation or projection on a bone, for example. In this way, it is clear that while superficially simple, His Eminence represents the artist’s diverse experiences and worldly intelligence.
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