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Local artists install strong works at biennial outdoor sculpture exhibition

"Evergreen Commons" by Eric Leshinsky, C. Ryan Patterson, and Fred Scharmen, with help by Michael Benevento, Gary Kachadourian, Sarah Doherty, Billy Mode, Jonathan Taube, and Services United

By Alex Ebstein | Posted 6/2/2010

Half the fun in visiting Sculpture at Evergreen 6: Simultaneous Presence, the biennial outdoor exhibition on the museum's grounds, is the exploration. Some pieces lie conspicuously on the lawns; others are concealed within overlooked architectural elements of the vast property, the search for green metal plaques bolstering your sense of adventure. Regional artists Ronit Eisenbach and Jennie Fleming--Eisenbach is also an architect who teaches at the University of Maryland and Fleming is working toward her Ph.D. in Media, Art, and Text at Virginia Commonwealth University--curate this sixth installment, which features 10 site-specific installations designed by individual artists and collaborative artist teams. For Simultaneous Presence, though, Eisenbach and Fleming picked work that foregoes the carefree whimsy of past shows in favor of contextual message and eco-consciousness.

Artists were invited and encouraged to find inspiration in the museum's history and location, creating pieces that speak to the distinctive qualities of their five-month home. Those pieces designed by the two participating individual Baltimore artists and one artist team display the greatest insight into the local historic landmark, its current and historical roles, and proximity to the city.

"Skip," an installation by Baltimore-based artist David Page, consists of a short length of steel and wooden train track, with a stationary cart paused in the middle. A ghostly, metal contour of a crouching passenger peers out of the fixed car. The functionless structure and its eerie passenger memorialize a former Baltimore industry and alludes to the John Work Garrett, Evergreen House's original owner, who was the president of B&O railroad during the late-19th century. Page places the pedestrian aspects of the railroad with the material accumulations of its executive leader.

Baltimore-based Shannon Young chose to comment on the potential for agricultural sustainability, and the lack of edible vegetation on the Evergreen grounds. Young's work typically investigates the consumers' relationship with food, specifically whether or not people are aware of its origin and the physical distance it travels to get to your plate. In her installation, "How Does Your Garden Grow?," Young has carted in a vegetable garden, filling an expansive, sloping lawn with shopping cart-beds of lettuce, carrots, and other consumable plants. Alongside the garden sits a small greenhouse with additional planters and a stove; the physical distance from farm to fork could not be closer.

A small, square patio sits next to a picturesque, mallard-inhabited stream among the Evergreen's Italian-style gardens, which are bordered with hedges and brick walls. This is where the Baltimore-based team of Eric Leshinsky, C. Ryan Patterson, and Fred Scharmen--who enlisted additional collaborators: Michael Benevento, Gary Kachadourian, Sarah Doherty, Billy Mode, Jonathan Taube, and Services United--re-imagine a contemporary, urban counterpart, "Evergreen Commons." The elegant brick walls are mimicked with harsh, chain-link fencing, and Kachadourian's photocopied brick wall, complete with graffiti. Instead of white marble benches, arranged for conversation, the commons contains a single, modified Baltimore City bench and a trash can. Urban foliage, a streetlight, and basketball hoop cast narrow shadows across the ground.

Participating artists from other cities primarily focused on a mix of Gilded Age excess and environmentally friendly decoration. Queens-based Yukiko Nakashima, however, installed a series of hooded, child-size figures in shadowy areas of the grounds. The somewhat frightening sculptures are arranged in small tableaux: one set attempts to haul pine trees, another figure holds a dead bird, and two more wear a birdhouse and bird head. The only figurative sculptures in the exhibition, Nakashima's characters are alarming daydreams and the lone inhabitants lurking in the corners of the formerly domestic property.

Artists Taeg Nishimoto, Matter Practice (the duo of Chris Malloy and Ken Kinoshita), and Yolande Daniels, all of whom have a background in architecture, contributed sculptures that have both a universality and anonymity to them. They are decorative and somewhat functional, though Matter Practice's "Fallen Fruit" lawn chairs come with a warning against head injury. Both Nishimoto and Matter Practice incorporate solar-powered LEDs into their sculptures, the effects of which are unavailable to the public, as the facility closes at 4 p.m.

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