Wide World of Sports
July 19 – August 10, 2019
Eric Firestone Gallery
4 Newtown Lane
East Hampton, NY
Eric Firestone Gallery, East Hampton is pleased to present “Wide World of Sports,” an exhibition which brings together artists using sport as a subject matter and will include works by the following artists:
John Ahearn • Slater Bradley • Michael Combs • Jerry Cooke • Darío Escobar • Travis Fish Al Freeman • David Hammons • Royal Jarmon • Howard Kanovitz • Deborah Kass • Sam Keller • Matthew King • Andrew Kuo • Robert Longo • Charles McGill • Jeanette Mundt • Iván Navarro • LeRoyNeiman • Howardena Pindell • Umar Rashid Carlos Rolón • Tom Sanford • Hank Willis Thomas • Nari Ward • Andy Warhol • Wendy White • Tyrrell Winston • Rob Wynne • Eric Yahnker
Sports is often called the great equalizer: bringing together people from diverse backgrounds as both players and spectators. While visual art can feel, for many, out of reach and inaccessible, through the potent act of bringing sports imagery into painting, sculpture, and installations, the artists in this exhibition open art to a broader audience. The exhibition itself becomes a metaphor for this reality: it freely intermixes the iconic historic work of Andy Warhol and LeRoy Neiman alongside significant voices in contemporary art including Hank Willis Thomas, Iván Navarro, and Robert Longo.
Competing as an athlete is not unlike having a studio practice: requiring dedication, stamina, and drive. Wendy White, whose work is featured in the exhibition, has said: “I’m into the potential for either success or failure as a parallel between sports and art. Willpower is an incredible thing, and nothing to be taken lightly. The basic will to live, followed by the drive to do well at things, then to excel once momentum is created. I know it’s cliché, but it’s beautiful. Sports embody that, while also being emblematic of youth and desire.”
The show includes work invoking sports with a variety of approaches. Several artists utilize sports equipment and paraphernalia, turning them into installation pieces or poetic commentary. These include abstract assemblages by Charles McGill, made of repurposed, vintage golf bags. David Hammons makes incisive, pointed alterations to basketball hoops and baseballs as commentary on visibility and invisibility in society. Nari Ward’s pieces, often incorporating found, discarded, and charred baseball bats, invoke a history of the violent oppression of African Americans. Guatemalan artist Darío Escobar uses hanging soccer balls to create surrealist forms of floating clouds. Tyrrell Winston’s work with found and discarded balls and nets suggests how history can be embedded in trash.
Artists in the show working within the tradition of portraiture invoke the beauty of the athletic body and the nature of celebrity. A Warhol portrait of Willie Shoemaker, the most successful jockey in racing history, will be exhibited, along with a Deborah Kass painting with a repeating silkscreen image of Sandy Koufax which deliberately appropriates Warhol. Robert Longo’s ink and charcoal drawings of UFC fighters and football players are about the dynamism and physicality of the body locked in combat and the power of the seemingly benign gesture of taking a knee.
The exhibition will feature a suite of photographs by Jerry Cooke from his Bodies in Motion series, celebrating the Olympic athlete. Among these images will be Cooke’s photograph of Cathy Rigby executing a perfect split on the balance beam, which in 1972 became the first nude image of a woman published in Sports Illustrated, two years before Cooke would become the magazine’s Director of Photography. A few years prior, Sports Illustrated had also commissioned pioneer photorealist Howard Kanovitz to create sculptures of NCAA All American players for their 1969 College Basketball Issue.
Other, more contemporary work, however, veers away from beauty towards eccentric figuration, suggesting how popular culture, and banal image saturation can infiltrate painting and sculpture. These ideas inform work by Tom Sanford, Andrew Kuo, Royal Jarmon, and the absurdist mash-ups of art history and spectacle in Eric Yahnker’s painting.
Finally, other artists approach sports at its convergence with formal abstraction. Howardena Pindell’s Video Drawings of the 1970s place transparencies with notations of arrows and numbers above imagery of televised sports events. The marks signify the movement of the image across the television screen. Iván Navarro’s light sculptures are based on pictograms of athletes by a graphic designer for the 1972 Munich Olympics, and Matthew King’s work collages images of football with a minimalist abstract overlay.
The exhibition shows how the subject matter of sports can traverse the multifaceted range of the human experience: from aspiration and ideal beauty to banality, spectacle, and deep societal ills.