Exhibition title: Game Changer
Artists: David Adamo, Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Daniel Arsham, Phil Bender, Devon Dikeou, Humberto Duque, Brett Kashmere, Catherine Opie, Helmut Smits, Ana Soler, Adam Stamp, Kehinde Wiley

Exhibition Dates:  July 17 through September 14, 2014
Exhibition Space: Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA)

Guest Curated by Cortney Lane Stell and Ruth Bruno

In an essay on the aesthetics of basketball, art writer Dave Hickey observed, “the trick of civilization lies in recognizing the moment when a rule ceases to liberate and begins to govern.”[1] Hickey highlights that rules are like lines in the sand, not impossible to cross, rather something used to define or direct. It is through sports that we reinforce cultural ideas of boundaries and right and wrong. Game Changer sets out to examine artists’ relations to the aesthetics, rules, and cultural significance of competitive sports. The works in this exhibition hold a specific gravity, as sports touch our lives in many ways, from how we spend our leisure time to how we spend our money to our civic and personal identity.

Game Changer showcases how artists exploit rules and concepts of competition to illuminate societal values and cultural norms enforced by games and sports, while others utilize familiar sports objects formally as aesthetic tools. Sports are a ubiquitous feature of society - making the topic of sports in art an accessible starting point for audiences to engage with the art. The cultural relevance of sports is irrefutable - professional sports bring in billions of dollars, millions of children and adults play recreational sports, nations align behind teams and athletes in international competitions. The function of the artist is often to take a deeper level of engagement with the familiar - reflecting on societal norms and cultural expectations through the criticality of their artwork.

The twelve artists included in this exhibition span from Colorado artist, Phil Bender, to internationally renowned artists, including Kehinde Wiley and Catherine Opie, and represent a range of nationalities, including Mexico, Spain, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States. The scope of artists underlines the pervasiveness of competitive sports, and the themes that emerge from a critical analysis of sports and human behavior. These artists take a reflective, and often critical, look at games such as soccer, basketball, ping-pong, football, baseball and tennis. Some works showcase modifications that render games unplayable and/or winning an impossibility, removing the competitive element and, hence, the purpose of the sport. Other works engage with sports and sporting equipment on a purely formal level, showcasing sporting goods as unique objects, removed of their functionality and interpreted for their formal beauty alone. Some artists use the athlete’s body or persona as their focal point - capitalizing on the common perception of the athlete’s body as object of performance and desire, or on the feeling of ownership fans can have for their favorite player. Lastly, several works in the exhibition engage with the commodification of sports - from the utilization of the athlete as a commodity to the advertising rampant throughout professional sports.

While addressing various components of sports, the 21 works in Game Changer illuminate the potential of art to foster many different types of critical contemplation. These artworks elucidate that the world is more complex than the clear-cut parameters of recognizable social structures, reminding us that within every ruled system, there exists potential for creativity and exploration. Through the use of familiar sports vocabulary, the works bring to light the aesthetic, ritualistic and value-reinforcing power of sports.

{C}[1]{C} David Hickey, “The Heresy of Zone Defense,” Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy (Los Angeles: Art Issues. Press, 1997), 157.

Wiley, Adamo, Opie
Opie, Stamp

Photos: Richard Peterson. Courtesy Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. (c) the artist. 


Catalogue Spanish