Martin Puryear’s monumental sculpture Big Bling has landed for at least the next five years at MASS MoCA. Sited at the museum’s extreme southern perimeter in the heart of the downtown North Adams, Massachusetts business district, the sculpture creates a dramatic new connection between MASS MoCA’s 16-acre, 28-building factory campus and the city’s Main Street business district.
The spectacular forty-foot-tall work — the largest temporary installation Puryear has created — is built of wood, Puryear’s signature material, and chain-link fence. Through abstract means, the artist has crafted an ongoing dialogue with history, art history, identity, and politics. Here, “bling,” a slang term for flashy jewelry and accessories, is rooted in the urban youth, hip-hop, and rap culture of the 1990s. Originally commissioned for New York City’s Madison Square Park, the title of the artwork and its initial placement in the heart of Manhattan demonstrate Puryear’s recognition that Big Bling was a reflection of the character and the inhabitants of dense urban environments. Restored and transposed to MASS MoCA’s campus, the significant scale of the piece in relation the lower-scale and density of a New England factory town changes viewers’ perspective while amplifying the work’s monumental impact.
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