“Balls to the Wall” Exhibition


poster for “Balls to the Wall” Exhibition

This event has ended.

DODGEgallery presents Balls to the Wall, a group exhibition with Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Matt Browning, Tim Davis, Leah Dixon, Dario Escobar, Leo Fitzmaurice, Nina Katchadourian and Lisa Young. Balls to the Wall explores the intersection of art, labor, athleticism, humor and the body. Seemingly opposite, art and sport collide, expressing the physical and mental demands of the body and spirit.

Athletics play a significant role in Western culture and are introduced to us from a young age, whether through actual participation, attendance or media observation, which for some develops into intense vicarious engagement. Conditioned to engage with sports from early development, the high of participation and ultimate glory of winning is instilled alongside the fear of failure and rejection. Dario Escobar’s Bicho No. 4, a ping pong paddle that is disjointed and broken but re-hinged and folded as a means to “fix” or “heal” it, but is ultimately rendered unusable for its original intent. Becoming nothing more than an absurd object for viewership, Bicho No. 4 plays into the fear of failure, albeit humorously, by exemplifying defeat from the outset. Similarly, Matt Browning’s Mountain Scene, composed of combined and repurposed skis that have been cut and re-formed into mountain-shaped objects, appear as seemingly brutalist abstract forms. Browning offers the bigger is better methodology by employing an already large and awkward piece of equipment to the extreme except, in this state, the skis are effectively useless.

Prescribing to a team often eases these extremes found in solitude with that of a communal solidarity. Winning becomes more celebratory with a squad and losing becomes a shared burden. Solitude is highlighted in Tim Davis’ Upstate New York Olympics as he conceives and executes his own sports, from “Rusty Pipe Drag” to “National Geographic Gymnastics,” all of which are played in solitude and filmed by a stationary camera—the antithesis of the modern Olympics. Presented on three large screens mimicking the layout of a sports bar, Davis invites the viewer into a large-scale consumption of his struggle. The futility of these events only heightens the viewer’s sense of Davis’ isolation; however, by watching the recordings, Davis’ audience, though removed by time and location, becomes his team—rooting for him, laughing at his humorous choice of exercises, and sharing in relief when he’s successful and empathy when he “fails”. Lacking opponents, Davis’ is competitive with himself and his challenge is in the tasks that he has self-assigned and his drive amidst seclusion.

The participants are not the sole figures in sport; the spectator plays a significant role. One selects (or is born into) a team to follow, support and watch. A sense of community is found within fellow fans through watching the wins and losses as a group. Leo Fitzmaurice’s soccer (football) jerseys made of folded cigarette cartons speak to the cultural obsession of watching sports whilst sitting in a bar/pub and entertaining vices that premier athletes are meant to abstain from. Whilst watching athletes exert themselves physically in ways unfathomable to the common person, the spectator enthusiastically consumes alcohol, fast food and cigarettes in solidarity with fellow fans. Presented as a series, the miniature jerseys call to the other element of consumption—memorabilia. A massive market is dedicated to the ownership of various sports/team paraphernalia from jerseys to balls to hats, Fitzmaurice gives us these items out of an everyday piece of trash, highlighting the kitsch aspect of the collectable.

The game of sport harkens to that of battle with two (or more) contending forces/teams. Leah Dixon’s Chaos in the Sky and Comfort on the Floor, directly references notions of modern warfare with bomb imagery inlaid on yoga mats. A practice that is defined by leaving the body behind and connecting to the spirit, yoga strives toward a peaceful existence. Dixon’s mats, the very object that the body is grounded on in practice, depict imagery that mimics the graphics of video games, a consumer avenue through which war has become a part of our collective conscience. The flat graphics integrated into the yoga mat leave the question open as to what gains precedence here. The material composition proposes a means for defusing and conquering, as if through practice and repetition one can control reactions to the influx of violent imagery—or be consumed by it.

Sweat, labor, practice and fine tweaking can be found across all levels of athletics, not just the elite. Sport can easily become an obsession; athletes by many standards would be considered unstable, always seeking to reach the next level with a relentless ambition. Nina Katchadourian’s piece, Mallory’s Words, depicts the legendary mountaineer George Mallory’s famous response to the question, “Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?” His reply, “Because it’s there,” provides the form for the installation, made entirely of rock climbing holds that ascend the wall of the inner gallery as if reaching for the unattainable. Here, Katchadourian humorously makes language material, though not functional.

The constant strive towards perfection speaks broadly to the human spirit. The notion of continually laboring towards the unachievable goal of perfection finds grace in triumph and humility in defeat. Moments of loss provide grounding and context for those of reward. Lisa Young’s Lyra Angelica pays homage to the figure skater, Michelle Kwan. An athlete who was repeatedly heralded to win it all but always fell just short of the gold. In Lyra Angelica, Young splits the screen into four different performances of the same routine so the viewer can watch as Kwan comes off pace, fails and triumphs. As spectators, our vicarious participation is guided and dramatized by the choreography of multiple images and the announcers’ audio recordings. Young tunes in and out of the audio of each performance at specific points to hear the sensationalization alongside the genuine support and encouragement of each respective broadcaster. Young’s selection of her subject highlights this obsession of grinding towards perfection. The sport itself, figure skating, is one that is extremely physically demanding but meant to look absolutely effortless.

Athletics and labor merge through the intense requirements of the body. Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom uses the tools of labor, a mop and paint with the densest of sport equipment, a bowling ball in Melon n Ball (Mop). Despite its initial absurdity, Boakye-Yiadom presents the viewer with a form at human scale, as if upside down. He has rendered both the tools of labor and sport unusable, denoting their gained futility. By displaying the objects on a pedestal in a plexi case, Boakye-Yiadom relegates and simultaneously immortalizes them like trophies or pieces of memorabilia furthering their newly impotent existence.

Each of the artists in Balls to the Wall taps into the shared human experience of athletics as a means to express the balance and contradictions between aspirations and limitations. Exploring the elements of team, labor, perfection and defeat, they have all chosen sports that are less than mainstream in this country. By not tackling one of the big three—baseball, basketball and football—the exhibition edges towards the experience of obscurity. Each artist has found beauty and often humor in the highs and lows of their representations, perhaps connecting to the greater human condition.

[Image: Tim Davis “The Upstate New York Olympics” (2010-11) 3 channel video installation, still from Flagpole Grapple]



from July 11, 2013 to August 16, 2013

Opening Reception on 2013-07-11 from 18:00 to 20:00

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