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September 27, 2009

Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture presents Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports

October 8 – December 12, 2009

Contact: Thomas Moore
Director of Arts & Culture

Note: You may view or download this release as a pdf file.

Hank Willis Thomas Scarred Chest 2003 Lightjet print 30 x 20 in. (76.2 x 50.8 cm) Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New YorkUMBC's Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (CADVC) presents Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports, opening on October 8th and closing on December 12th, 2009. Mixed Signals is curated by Christopher Bedford of the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and features works by Matthew Barney, Mark Bradford, Marcelino Gonçalves, Lyle Ashton Harris, Brian Jungen, Kurt Kauper, Shaun El C. Leonardo, Kori Newkirk, Catherine Opie, Paul Pfeiffer, Marco Rios, Collier Schorr, Joe Sola, Sam Taylor-Wood and Hank Willis Thomas.

Mixed Signals explores and investigates the subject of the male athlete in contemporary art. This particular artistic theme has become increasingly prevalent during the past several years, building upon several decades of discourse about identity and gender. Mixed Signals demonstrates that today's male athlete is a far more ambiguous, polyvalent figure in our collective cultural imagination than ever before. Using elements of wit, sarcasm, and controversy, the artists challenge cultural assumptions that gender is natural or innate. Instead, they emphasize the many ways masculinity is performed, coded, and socially constructed, especially in the spectacular, media-saturated field of sports.

Despite all that has changed as a result of the identity politics of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, one American stereotype still remains particularly entrenched: that of the aggressive, hyper-competitive, emotionally undemonstrative, heterosexual male athlete. This subject has, until recently, been overlooked by critically minded artists, critics, art historians, and curators. Adopting methodologies inspired by feminist and queer theory, gender studies, and racial politics, Mixed Signals brings together a significant body of recent work that explores the polyvalent figure of the contemporary male athlete, one that has only recently attained sufficient critical mass for such an exhibition to take place.

Catherine Opie Josh 2007 Chromogenic print 30 x 22-1/4 in (76.2 x 56.5 cm) Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los AngelesThe foundational figure for this exhibition is American multi-media artist, Matthew Barney, who has mined a range of materials--Vaseline, dumbbells, chalk, and wrestling mats, for example--and imagery--much of it related to football--to foreground the way young men are socio-culturally and psychosexually formed by the intimate experience of competitive sport. Barney isolates themes, imagery, and materials within the culture of sport that hint at related economies of sexuality, objectification, homosociality, and desire, and developed an aesthetic practice to grapple with these difficult themes. Accordingly, Mixed Signals will present screenings of an early film (CREMASTER 4, 1994) and a later film (Drawing Restraint 10, 2005) by Barney, which in combination emphasize the persistence of this theme within the artist's oeuvre.

Rituals of male bonding in sports are explored in Mixed Signals. These "homosocial behaviors" (non-sexual expressions of affection and desire, sometimes accompanied by violence) within male-dominated social networks appear in a number of works on view. Here, Shaun El C. Leonardo's performance-based sculpture and video work is a salient point of reference, as are Marcelino Gonçalves's sensual paintings of young football stars, and Joe Sola's video work of football players sparring with the artist.

Another key theme of this exhibition pertains to the materials, symbols and regalia of sports that signify the prowess of the wearer, and are often construed as synonymous with the identity of the male athlete. Brian Jungen's mixed media works, for example, rework sports merchandise into suggestive works that address the artist's individual identity, while Hank Willis Thomas's haunting image of a head that has been branded with the Nike swoosh logo, using Photoshop, equates athletes with commercialized products, while simultaneously referencing the practice of branding African-American slaves. The concept of athletic events as gendered theatre arises in the works of Paul Pfeiffer, Mark Bradford, and in the work of Catherine Opie, whose vivid color photographs of Friday night high school football heightens the dramatized atmosphere. In her individual portraits of the players, she "manages to capture the tentatively constituted self-image of her teenage subjects….[They] hesitate about themselves, aware of the archetypes they aspire to," in the words of Christopher Bedford.

iCiMixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports is a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by iCI (Independent Curators International), New York. The exhibition and tour are made possible, in part, by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the iCI Advocates, the iCI Partners, Agnes Gund, Gerrit and Sydie Lansing, and Barbara and John Robinson. Mixed Signals is an expanded version of Contemporary Projects 11: Hard Targets---Masculinity and American Sports, an exhibition curated by Bedford, which was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

About the Curator
Christopher Bedford is a curator at the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts. Formerly assistant curator in the department of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he is now conducting a survey of Silvia Kolbowski's work. Bedford is on the editorial board of the Los Angeles-based journal X-TRA, and is editing a volume of essays for Duke University Press. He has written extensively on art for publications including Artforum, Art in America, and October.

About the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (CADVC)
The Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture is dedicated to the study of contemporary art and visual culture, critical theory, art and cultural history, and the relationship between society and the arts. The CADVC serves as a forum for students, faculty, and the general public for the discussion of important aesthetic and social issues of the day. Disciplines represented include painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, digital art, video, film, television, design, architecture, advertising, and installation and performance art.

Since 1989, the CADVC has incorporated a number of public programs into its exhibition programming schedule to further impact the communities it serves. Symposia, lecture series, conferences, film series, visiting artist series, and residencies have all been fundamental in an effort to create an ongoing dialogue about contemporary art and culture. The Center has also initiated a number of projects with Baltimore and surrounding schools to integrate the contemporary artist and their concerns into the classroom. These projects take place on-site at both middle schools and high schools and are team taught by the instructors at these schools, professional artists, and students from the CADVC's Internship Program.

The Center produces one to two exhibition catalogues each year. Each document is fully illustrated and contains critical essays on the given subject by a variety of distinguished professionals in the field. Recent publications include Postmodernism: A Virtual Discussion and Paul Rand: Modernist Design. These books and catalogues are published and are distributed internationally through Distributed Art Publishers.

Since 1992, the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture has actively pursued the organization of exhibitions that contain the aesthetic, theoretical, and educational potential to reach both a national and international audience. Over the years, the CADVC has traveled these exhibition projects to a broad spectrum of museums, professional non-profit galleries, and universities national and internationally. Recent traveling exhibitions include:

- White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art (2003)
- Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations (2001)
- Adrian Piper: A Retrospective (1999)
- Bruno Monguzzi: A Designer’s Perspective (1998)
- Minimal Politics (1997)
- Kate Millett, Sculpture: The First 38 Years (1997)

Beyond the scope of these traveling exhibitions, the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture also undertakes projects such as the Joseph Beuys Tree Partnership. As part of the educational mission of the CADVC, one graduate thesis exhibition and one undergraduate senior exhibition are presented each year.

This multi-faceted focus for presenting exhibitions, projects and scholarly research publications focused on contemporary art and cultural issues positions the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in a unique position within the mid-Atlantic region.

Hours and Admission
Tuesday through Saturday — 10 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
Admission is free.

UMBC Artsline (24 hour recorded message): 410-455-ARTS
Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture: 410-455-3188

UMBC Arts website:
Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture:

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Brian Jungen Michael 2003 Screen print on powder-coated aluminum, 10 boxes Installation dimensions: 34 x 44 x 33 in. (86.4 x 111.8 x 83.8 cm) Rennie Collection, Vancouver

Posted by tmoore at September 27, 2009 3:59 PM