Virginia Overton: Built

Virginia Overton, Built, 2019. Installation in the Don River Valley Park. Photo: Craig Boyko.

From December 2018 through October 2019, Evergreen’s Don River Valley Park Art Program partnered with New York’s Socrates Sculpture Park presented an outdoor exhibition by New York-based artist Virginia Overton in the Lower Don Valley. Built was originally commissioned by Socrates Sculpture Park and curated by Socrates’ Director of Exhibitions, Jess Wilcox. On view for a year, the Toronto iteration of Built is spread across two sites. Three of the exhibition’s original sculptures were installed on the Lower Don trail, to be joined by a new work made in Toronto. Overton had also installed the latest in her series of lightbox signs at the Evergreen Brick Works site, overlooking the quarry.

In her work, Overton re-purposes the ubiquitous industrial and natural material found in cities and rural environments across North America: the rusted I-beams, wooden joists, salvaged metal pipes, gantries, motors and pick-up trucks that make up the built environments of cities like Toronto and New York – and resonate specifically with the post-industrial landscape of Long Island City, where Socrates Sculpture Park is located, and that of Toronto’s Lower Don Valley, where rural and urban, industrial and post-industrial converge.

Virginia Overton, Built, 2019. Installation in the Don River Valley Park. Photo: Craig Boyko.

Overton often sources materials in the places she works, combining them with elements re-introduced from past artworks or exhibitions. In Built, she brings these raw and recycled materials together in unexpected new configurations and with reference to the setting of a public park. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a sixteen-foot salvaged pine beam suspended from a found steel gantry, which Overton has transformed into a massive communal swing. Alongside it, a set of rusted steel girders holds dozens of cut metal pipes gathered from the artist’s studio, from Socrates Sculpture Park, from Evergreen’s scrap materials and from around Toronto; together the pipes act as impromptu lenses, framing and focusing in on the Lower Don Valley. While in Toronto, Overton has also created a new sculpture from a discarded glass carrier found in the city’s west end, which she has inlaid with cut marble brought from her Brooklyn studio. This new sculpture was installed alongside the others on the Lower Don Trail in spring 2019.

Between the exhibition’s two sites – Evergreen Brick Works and a stretch of grass between a pedestrian trail and an infrastructural service road in the Lower Don Valley – Overton opens a new dialogue surrounding the area’s industrial vestiges and post-industrial revitalization efforts. The resulting works offer potent reflections on issues of circulation and reuse, and encourage a close look at the material language of cities, and the economic systems that shape the built environment.


Virginia Overton was born in Tennessee and currently lives and works in New York. Solo exhibitions have been presented at Bortolami (New York), Socrates Sculpture Park (Long Island City), Museum Of Contemporary Art Tucson, The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Ridgefield), White Cube (London), Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, Storm King Art Center (Mountainville), Westfälischer Kunstverein (Munster), Kunsthalle Bern, The Kitchen (New York), and The Power Station (Dallas). Recent group exhibitions and projects include Art Omi (New York), Peter Freeman (New York), Gio Marconi (Milan), Future Audio Graphics (New York), Frieze Sculpture (London), FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, MAY68 (New York), Maisterravalbuena (Lisbon), Lever House (New York), Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), Parcours (Art Basel), Contemporary Art Museum (St. Louis), High Line Art (New York), MoMA PS1 (New York), and SculptureCenter (New York).  Upcoming exhibitions include Francesca Pia Gallery (Zurich) and the Commuter Biennial (Miami).  


Socrates Sculpture Park was founded in 1986 by visionary sculptor Mark di Suvero as a community engaged, accessible arts space dedicated to supporting artists in the production and presentation of public artworks.


Co-presented by Evergreen with the City of Toronto and TRCA, the Don River Valley Park Art is a series of temporary, site-specific public art projects sited along the Lower Don River, curated by Kari Cwynar.


The Toronto presentation of Built is made possible thanks to Socrates Sculpture Park and thanks to the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and Soncin Construction.

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