Artist Erects Immense, Illegal Sugar Sculpture in Burned Out Baltimore Warehouse

The artwork is made from 7,000 pounds of sugar.

Matthew Gray, God Bless the Child (2017). Courtesy of Matthew Gray.

Ten feet tall and brightly-colored, the latest sculpture by Baltimore-based Matthew Gray is actually a massive candy bar, crafted from 7,000 pounds of Domino sugar and 2,520 pounds of corn syrup, cooked with 282 pounds of water. Strangely enough, that may not be the most incongruous thing about the work: Gray has decided to plop the oozing obelisk down, unauthorized, in a condemned warehouse in East Baltimore.

In the past, Gray has worked with brands such as Microsoft and Patagonia, but described his new piece, installed on February 17 after three years of planning, as “a gift to the city and creative community” in a statement. He’s lived outside Baltimore for 20 years, and has chosen 2200 Aisquith St. as the site of the work, despite being unable to secure official permission for the project.

Records show that the former owners forfeited the property in 2001, which was ravaged by a three-alarm fire in 2014. Declared unsafe by building officials, the warehouse is slated for demolition, and the public is warned to keep out. For now, however, the desolate building is home to the sugary-sweet guerrilla work, titled God Bless the Child.

Matthew Gray, God Bless the Child (2017). Courtesy of Matthew Gray.

Matthew Gray, God Bless the Child (2017). Courtesy of Matthew Gray.

The juxtaposition of the cheerful-looking candy-bar and its environs is somewhat uncomfortable, suggesting the exploitation of a poor neighborhood for its shock value. For the artist, that’s part of how he hopes to challenge the viewer. “The candy is kind of a fake out, because it wants to lure you in… but it’s an actual serious piece,” Gray assured the Baltimore Sun.

The prism-shaped monolith stands tall and proud amid the rubble, but it is by nature an ephemeral work. Like the small sugar children that accompanied Kara Walker’s sugar sphinx in the 2014 Creative Time project A Subtlety (Marvelous Sugar Baby), also installed in a doomed industrial facility—the former Domino sugar factory, to be precise—God Bless the Child is designed to decay.

Consequently, Gray is perhaps bringing another unauthorized gift to the neighborhood: vermin.

“Bees are already starting to swarm it. Insects feed on it. The rain washes it away,” said Gray of the biodegradable work, noting that inevitably “it’s going to fall apart.”

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