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deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts
Through September 18

“Prolific expansion, growth, and mutation” in nature and the built environment is the subject of the deCordova’s summer exhibition. As a landscape architect, I was enticed by the prospect of immersion in uncontrolled organic abundance, decay, devastation — all that which begets new life.

Whether an intentional curatorial choice or an inherent condition of working with a permanent collection, the work is intensely diverse, both in aesthetic form and thematic content. It includes a number of striking artworks, such as Laura McPhee’s large-format photography recording the beauty and devastation of post–forest fire Idaho. Across the gallery, prolific expansion of consumer culture is featured in Rachel Perry Welty’s self-portrait, meticulously staged within a decorated collection of Styrofoam dinner containers.

Other pieces combine the grotesque and the beautiful. Constance Jacobson’s highly detailed amorphic monotypes can be understood as a brain cross- section, a microbe, an ossified tree slice, or something else. One of the most awe-inspiring works — fascinating and terrifying — is Harold Edgerton’s photograph of an atomic bomb blast, taken with a 10-foot lens from a distance of 7 miles, the graininess of the bulbous image entirely out of proportion with the enormity of the event.

I loved the visceral experience of many of the individual works but wished the show was half as large so it could have felt more thematically consistent. My initial experience was similar to scanning stations on the radio — a snippet of one piece of music and then off to something else. But perhaps that’s a fundamental subtext of this exhibition, with its starting point in overabundance. The image-ready culture of Google, Facebook, and Instagram trains us to edit out certain things and select others, skills that can be creatively employed to immerse oneself in the varied tendrils of Overgrowth.

Image gallery: Overgrowth

Late Summer (Drifting Fireweed), 2007, Laura McPhee. Chromogenic print, 72" × 94". Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Carroll and Sons, Boston 

Self Portrait as the Born Feeling Begins, 2009, David Benjamin Sherry, chromogenic print, Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

Clover Tangle from the series "Nurturing Time, Life in a Backyard Garden", 2009; printed 2012, David Wolf, chromogenic print mounted on board, ed. 1/3, 16 x 20 inches, Museum Purchase with funds provided by an anonymous donor