Martin Puryear was commissioned to make a new work for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden before the design of the Garden was finalized. An artist who has always maintained a high level of craftsmanship in his work while addressing the relationship between nature and culture, Puryear originally suggested a stone arch. This inspired the Walker curators to site the sculpture at the entrance to the Garden. After studying the models and plans from architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, Puryear relinquished the arch idea (feeling it would obscure the view of SPOONBRIDGE AND CHERRY) and suggested that something more akin to gateposts, designed for a plaza with seating, would better suit the chosen site.
Once the form was decided upon -- two stone pillars made from a single slab of granite, emphasizing symmetry and asymmetry -- conversations were initiated about their placement, structural integrity, and title. Names considered for the pair of columns included biblical references to Miriam and Moses, and Gog and Magog. The final title, AMPERSAN, is the word for the symbol "&," which means "and." The pieces were made with stone from the Cold Spring quarry in Minnesota. Puryear traveled there to help shape them, and he was also on hand when the work was installed. He is pictured here with Director Emeritus Martin Friedman (both are on the left; Friedman is wearing a hat). The close relationship between the Walker and Puryear in the creation of this commission is representative of the level of support provided all commissioned artists at the Walker.