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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 28, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 32
Keeping the Garrett Legacy Alive

James Archer Abbott, curator of Evergreen, where Sharon Engelstein's 'Green Golly' peeks out from the columns.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Visiting sculptors install their provocative work at Evergreen Museum

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Hyungsub Shin's sculpture Rhizome adheres to Evergreen's Carriage House wall like a camouflaged alien invader, which in many respects it is. Thankfully for the peaceful citizens of Baltimore, Rhizome is benign art, not some B-movie monster bent on wanton destruction.

For the sculpture, the New York-based artist pieced together sheaves of multicolored electrical wires on a gridlike trellis that once supported wisteria vines on the side of the building, located on the Evergreen Museum & Library property. The result is a complex network of dendritic forms intended to mimic nature, whether perceived as an alien plant, flowering nerve cells or a brain synapse. In any case, it's clear that many synapses fired during the creation of Rhizome, one of 10 thought-provoking works on display in Evergreen Museum & Library's fifth biennial outdoor sculpture exhibition.

Sculpture at Evergreen 2008 will open with a public reception from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 4, and will continue through Sunday, Sept. 28.

The show features new works of temporary sculpture, spread throughout the 26-acre property, created by artists from across the United States. Intended to push the boundaries of the art form, the event encourages the exploration of untraditional outdoor media.

James Archer Abbott, curator of Evergreen, calls Shin's sculpture "an intimate piece" that, like the exhibition's other works, offers more than meets the eye. On closer inspection, you notice that the various twisted telephone wires and metallic ribbons have no link to the soil but rather connect to an electrical outlet on the side of the Carriage House wall. What first appears as nature arguably becomes a symbol of mankind's dominance over it.

Unlike most of the sculptures in this year's exhibition, Rhizome does not loudly advertise its presence.

"The sad thing is that people walk by without even looking at it, like it's not for everyone to see," says Abbott, who became Evergreen curator in November. "The piece requires you to open your eyes in a different way."

The 2008 exhibition is guest curated by Andrea Pollan, an art dealer, consultant, appraiser, writer and founding director of Curator's Office in Washington, D.C. She has organized more than 100 exhibitions of contemporary art and has written numerous catalogs and exhibition brochures.

Pollan describes Sculpture at Evergreen 2008 as "less about nature than about man's incursion into nature."

"Many of the works pop out of their natural setting rather than blend into it harmoniously," she says, "as has been the case with some of the past Sculpture at Evergreen exhibitions."

'Hideouts,' a pair of Sioux tepees by J Hill, stand guard on Evergreen's front lawn before the installation of 'Green Golly' on the portico. They are among the 10 works in 'Sculpture at Evergreen 2008' that will grace the grounds through Sept. 28.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Sharon Engelstein's Green Golly stands out like an X-Games skateboarder at a fancy-dress cocktail party. The 15-foot-tall electric green inflatable sculpture sits between the white soaring Greek columns of Evergreen's front portico. An exemplification of pop art, Green Golly sprouts puffy protuberances that comically contrast with the portico's muted colors and neoclassical lines.

"Here we have the artist really responding to the formality of the architecture," Abbott says. "What she provided us was a whimsical counterpart to the building's templelike facade. There is something very humorous about it. My own take is that we should not take ourselves too seriously."

The artists, selected by the guest curator, are each provided with a $3,000 honorarium for fabrication and $1,000 for installation and de-installation. They are given the freedom to design whatever they wish, using whatever material they want. The only stipulation is that he or she come to Evergreen first and be inspired by the landscape or history of the 150-year-old estate.

The sculpture Animal Shrine, for example, draws its inspiration from Evergreen's collection of Japanese art. The structure consists of wood and willow branches, and its roof is decorated with motifs similar to those stenciled in the museum's Leon Bakst-designed theater.

Evergreen House, an Italianate building with classical revival additions, was built in 1857 by the Broadbent family. It was purchased in 1878 by John W. Garrett, president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, for his son, T. Harrison Garrett. T. Harrison and his wife, Alice Whitridge Garrett, oversaw an ambitious program of renovation and construction on the estate during the 1880s. The couple's eldest son, John Work Garrett, inherited the house in 1920, and he and his wife, Alice Warder Garrett, continued the tradition of expanding the house and adding to its collections. John Work Garrett died in 1942, bequeathing the estate to Johns Hopkins.

Alice Warder Garrett, who lived at Evergreen until her death in 1952, welcomed artists, performers and scholars there to draw inspiration from the property's rich historic collection and impressive setting. Abbott says that the Sculpture at Evergreen exhibition continues this legacy, allowing the museum's historic collections to become a vibrant, creative source for new works and artistic innovations.

"Evergreen was never intended to be another stagnant historic house museum," Abbott says. "I knew when I arrived here it must continue to be a backdrop and inspiration for artists from around the world. This house lives through concept art. It would die if we stop such things."

In addition to Shin and Engelstein, the artists, some of them acclaimed and others relatively unknown, are Brian Balderston, Adam Frelin, Jeannine Harkleroad, Rebecca Herman and Mark Shoffner, J Hill, Michele Kong, Wee Lit Tan and Mike Womack.

Other works in the exhibition include a fluorescent yet translucent lattice blanket made of fused acrylic strips, a pair of Sioux tepees, a linear cube decorated with multicolored outdoor lighting, a booth of artificial night, a fragile metal ladder that straddles a stream, a broken lighthouse and the installation of an all-weather LCD television that plays a loop of a bizarre railroad-inspired narrative.

Hours of the exhibition, which is free and open to the public, are 9 a.m. to dusk Monday through Friday and noon to dusk on Saturday and Sunday; walking maps and a free illustrated visitor's guide are available in the Evergreen Museum & Library shop.

On June 26 and July 17, starting at 5:30 p.m., the museum will host "A Summer Evening at Evergreen," featuring an in-depth look at the sculpture exhibition and the museum's first-floor rooms. The evenings also will include a close-up look at the 17th-century Shakespeare folios in Evergreen's rare-book library and dress rehearsals of Twelfth Night (June 26) and The Taming of the Shrew (July 17) by the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. Performances start at 8 p.m.

For more information on Evergreen, and to make event reservations, call 410-516-0341 or go to


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