Contemporary Art Commissions at the Redeveloped Lexington Market

Janice K. Johnson


Oletha DeVane and her son Christopher Kojzar were selected to create one of the sculptural works. They have drawn inspiration from the public history initiative launched by Seawall and the City of Baltimore in conjunction with the new developments, specifically discoveries that historian Dean Krimmel from Johns Hopkins has uncovered in old photographs and newspaper clippings about the market.

One of Krimmel’s questions was what role, if any, Lexington Market played in the American chattel slavery system. Krimmel discovered one case of a person being sold in Lexington Market, a woman named Rosetta who was sold by the Baltimore city bailiff. He also found an ad for a runaway named Robert, who had lived on the plantation in what is now Howard County belonging to the county’s namesake, Governor George Howard.

DeVane and Kojzar’s piece, “Robert and Rosetta,” will depict these two people standing on either side of a swirling archway of wrought iron, a material that references Baltimore’s industries of the 19th century. DeVane wants the sculpture to enhance a sense of a “Black presence” in the market’s history. “There were no Black vendors when Robert and Rosetta were alive, so that part of the history is often invisible,” says DeVane. “This piece is about honoring these two people by making them known—making them visible.”

DeVane and Kojzar’s designs are being implemented by the metalworker Nicholas Ireys, who is also teaming up with Eric Smith and Reed Bmore on the plaza’s other sculptural work. Reed Bmore is an artist best known for the public wire sculptures he sometimes hangs from traffic line wires.

Reed Bmore’s background is in graffiti art, and his sculptures preserve the fast, colorful qualities of that medium. His piece for Lexington Market, “Food Play,” is no exception. The piece consists of long loops of colored wire, some twice the height of an adult, shaped into crabs, bananas, and other foods sold at the market. It is a lively homage to this “gastronomic capital of the world.”

In addition to the sculptural works, Seawall has commissioned two mural works for the new Lexington Market. Renowned artist Ernest Shaw will contribute four 16-foot murals to the plaza. Shaw has painted murals throughout Baltimore, from Graffiti Alley to Camden Yards, and he has always viewed murals as a means to connect the disparate parts of the city.



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