While this is a slightly rougher version of what Dallas locals are used to in a sculpture garden, the current Sweet Pass Sculpture Park exhibit leaves the space more peaceful than ever.
The sculptures, installations and video works, mostly on a large scale, rest stoically, inviting to the usual picnic atmosphere. Sweet Pass is one of the only art spaces where hot dogs are regularly served. But this show – titled “Nearly Natural” – invites guests to consider some of the most alarming aspects of how our most mundane landscapes are framed.
Nathaniel Hitchcock is the quick-witted mind behind the show, which discusses landscaping and its relationship to architecture as well as other fundamentals of cities, businesses, and homes. Read his well-researched exhibition essay or have a brief conversation with him, and it’s clear that man has spent much of the pandemic thinking about hedges and shrubs – a recurring theme for Hitchcock.
âThe whole thing, of course, is very problematic, and the hedges themselves and the way we think about hedges are problematic,â Hitchcock said over the phone.
Citing hedge pioneers like Lancelot “Capability” Brown, Hitchcock has an encyclopedic knowledge of how these architectural components evolved, usually at the behest of elites who could afford such topiary concerns.
âThey’re landscapers, but they design the language of the classroom, which we all live in now,â Hitchcock says.
In order to articulate the point of how environments and spaces are handled, Hitchcock enlisted a group of artists spanning the globe. They include Andreas Angelidakis, born in Greece; Gabriel Cohen, based in Los Angeles; the Franco-Caribbean Julien Creuzet; Ricardo Morales-HernÃ¡ndez, from Puerto Rico; and Letha Wilson, based in Hudson Valley, NY
Hitchcock also lives in upstate New York, but has had stays in Seoul, Mexico City, and even Waco. He runs an art space in Roxbury, NY called Liberal Arts Roxbury. The gallery was recently mentioned in an article about Oscar-winning director and Roxbury resident Roger Ross Williams.
The most visible piece is that of Gabriel Cohen Consolidation (after Cleopatra’s Needle, Tatlin Tower). Its imposing plywood tower contains a pointed pendulum that swings lightly in the mostly still air of North Texas. Elsewhere, Andreas Angelidakis Motif Philosophy Table and Chairs is a utilitarian work that the artist originally designed in 2006 and made his debut in Milan. The original set being lost, Sweet Pass co-founders Trey Burns and Tamara Johnson remade the work to the artist’s specifications.
While Angelidakis often creates works that are primarily used only by internet avatars, they are fully functional pieces of furniture.
Perhaps the most revealing work of art of Hitchcock’s intentions is that of Wilson Cedar Elm Wall. Exactly that, the curious work of art is the white wall of an art gallery, with two huge branches and green leaves growing through the work.
“It’s not like his other public sculptures, which are concrete and metal and designed to last longer,” Hitchcock says of the work. âThere is an impermanence there. I have always been interested in how galleries can interact with plants. â¦ How do these things come together and how do we reconcile them intellectually or aesthetically? “
And yet with all the criticisms made in the series, Hitchcock is also an admirer of the one he strikes. âOn a personal level, I love a good, immaculate, super-groomed hedge,â he says. “It’s that show of force of sorts.”
“Nearly Natural” can be viewed at Sweet Pass Sculpture Park, 402 Fabrication St., Dallas. The exhibition is open at certain times and by appointment until December 18 by email to [email protected] The last day with opening hours is December 12 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. sweetpasssculpturepark.com.