Garden of Delights

Kerry James Marshall

2013

Installation, variable dimensions.
Materials: 20 plexi flowers

Collection: Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, NY, and Koplin Del Rio, CA.

Marshalls Garden of Delights (2013) can be arranged in various ways. Originally the installation consisted of a 'footbridge' leading to a large, theatrical garden surrounded by flowers and grass, all from artificial materials. Plastic sunflowers, bound with metal thread to plastic trellises, swatches of plastic grass adorn the wall. In the middle of the plastic flowers sits an old family photograph.

Shiny red, green, brown and black plastic 'stones' - the colors of the Pan-African flag - lead to the center of the garden, where there is a framed photograph of a house and yard. The photo is staged as the important epicenter around which all the flowers grow. The "garden of delight" (a title with echoes of Hieronymus Bosch) at first sight seems idyllic, but a darker humor seeps in: next to the garden path are crumpled empty bags of Flamin 'Hot Cheetos, while a framed photo of the Chicago Malcolm X College gets the title Welcome to the Jungle. The piece also refers back to Marshall's earlier series The Garden Projects, where he treats urban public housing projects with the euphemistic term "garden" in their names.

For this exhibition a new arrangement was opted for, with the flowers and photographs hanging on the railing of the first mezzanine. Here Marshall casts critical comment on the artificiality of presentation. Photographs represent people and plastic replaces nature.

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