While I’m taking a summer break from the blog, I’m reposting and updating selected links from the archive.
* * * * * * * *
Sports art exhibits are not uncommon, but they’re not talked or written about all that much either. Despite some yeoman work trying to bridge this gap, sports historians and scholars like Allen Guttmann don’t have many like them following up on the contemporary scene.
His latest book, “Sports and American Art” was the subject of my October 2012 post, “Where sports, art and American history intersect.”
It’s a lush, rich book devoted mainly to painting — Guttmann ruled out photography for the sheer volume he’d have to go through otherwise. This focus was critical, as I noted, for this reason:
“Like the American artists of the 19th century who insisted on carving out a unique American identity for their work — Homer Winslow and Thomas Eakins in particular — so did the historians, ‘inventors’ and mythmakers of American sports during the same period of time.”
What about those sports artists of more recent times, those working in the age of photography and television? Guttmann’s book ends with work in the 1960s, and precludes a sports artist who’s getting more recent attention after his death.
Ernie Barnes, who played in the American Football League in the early 1960s, died in 2009. This summer, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been showing a special exhibit of his work, “From Pads to Palette,” that continues through Oct. 19.
His art career was distinguished — he was the official artist for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics — but his work wasn’t limited to sports. Barnes was considered a mannerist painter, and applied the style to depict contemporary African-American life.
My friend Clarence Gaines, Jr. penned a nice blog post in 2010, not long after Barnes’ death, that sums up what he learned about a man whom he hadn’t known before but who blended the best of both of his worlds to craft a bold voice and sensibility:
“This view of life comes from a very powerful place, Barnes’ life experiences. Do you see the humanity in your fellow man/woman? We’re all unique and have something special to offer, if given the chance and the opportunity. Barnes’ words and paintings cause me to reflect on my own attitudes to the people that I interact with. See the beauty and potentiality in each human being!”
What other sports-and-art treasures are out there flying under the radar? What can they reveal to us as powerfully as Barnes did? This gap between existence and discoveries doesn’t have to be as large as it is.