Baltimore artist installs protest-inspired sculpture in Mondawmin

On the other side of a chain-link fence, traffic moves along the street that protesters walked following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. Inside the fence, artist Matthew Gray stands with his latest sculpture, an aluminum mass titled “Cache #1.”

“It’s very helter-skelter,” said Matthew Gray, his face covered in stubble and his palms in dirt. The piece, which he said is intentionally rickety-looking, symbolizes a pile of debris, the types of things that might be found after a protest, a riot or a battle. Aluminum stop signs jut out from the edges, as do picket-fence materials and something that looks like a police barricade. From the middle, a fog machine belches out vapor, as if from a tear-gas canister.

The work, at 2230 Reisterstown Road in West Baltimore’s Mondawmin neighborhood, “is born of these sounds and smells and people and the helicopters, in the intensity,” Gray said, speaking over the honking of car horns on Reisterstown Road.

Though Gray acknowledges the statue’s historically significant backdrop, he said the piece isn’t directly inspired by the unrest that broke out in the surrounding neighborhood after the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody, or any other specific event.

“I’d rather have it be ambiguous,” he said. “It would be easy to have a flaming Trump statue.”

Gray, 48, built the sculpture at a boutique shop called Gunnar, across the street. The sculptor, who grew up in Charles Village and lives there now, doesn’t have a permanent studio; he works on site-specific works around the world. A previous piece he created in Baltimore included an outdoor sculpture made entirely of candy.

By design, he said, “Cache #1” will draw an audience outside of traditional galleries. “If you wanna come and see this work, you’ve got to take the ride and step out of … your comfort zone and come into the city.”

Across Reisterstown Road, Russell Epperson, 72, looked at the sculpture while he sat on his front steps, eating a sandwich. “It attracts a lot of attention,” he said. “But other than that. … It’s just another piece of art, I guess.”

*Correction: A previous version of this article included the incorrect address for the sculpture. It is at 2230 Reisterstown Road. The Sun regrets the error.
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