The Paris Review

Two Revolutions

Martin Puryear’s “Liberty/Libertà,” an exhibition featuring significant new sculptures in the artist’s oeuvre, is the United States’ official contribution to the ongoing 2019 Venice Biennale. The following essay appears in the catalogue accompanying Puryear’s presentation.

Installation view, “Martin Puryear: Liberty/Libertà,” La Biennale di Venezia, U.S. Pavilion, Venice, Italy, 2019. Photo: Joshua White—JWPictures.com.

“I like a little rebellion now and then,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, then U.S. minister to France, to Abigail Adams. She’d sent him a letter denouncing Shays’s Rebellion, a movement of Massachusetts insurgents, many of whom had served in the Revolutionary War but were now militating openly against the state they’d fought to form. Farmers, unable to pay their debts, had been

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