Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports

  • Catherine Opie, Football Landscape #5, (Juneau vs. Douglas, Juneau, Alaska), 2007

  • Paul Pfeiffer, John 3:16, 2000

  • Installation view at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA

Curated by Christopher Bedford

Photographer Collier Schorr has said, “I want to show the whole temperature of masculinity because—and I can only approach it as a woman—from the outside, masculinity has been depicted in very black-and-white terms.” Accordingly, the artists selected for this exhibition reject such comfortable “black-and-white” imagery. Catherine Opie focuses on the dramatic spectacle of high school football, zeroing in on a tense moment of anticipation just as the players are ready to spring into action, while Brian Jungen sets up a meditative stack of boxes repeating the mesmerizing stare of legendary basketball star, Michael Jordan. Hank Willis Thomas’s photographs deconstruct the ways in which race and sexuality are exploited to brand and market male athletes; and Joe Sola’s video works assume an outsider’s perspective on football, addressing the social exclusivity of competitive athletics through humor and farce.

Several artists and theorists have argued convincingly that social identities—including race, gender, and sexuality—are performed, coded, and contingent. However, the male athlete has been overlooked by artists, art historians and curators until fairly recently, because it is only in the past decade that a critical mass of art addressing this subject has grown large enough to allow for such an exploration.

Mixed Signals is an expanded version of Contemporary Projects 11: Hard Targets: Masculinity and American Sports, an exhibition organized by Christopher Bedford for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in fall 2008.


Christopher Bedford

Christopher Bedford is Chief Curator at the Wexner Center.  Recent exhibitions include a survey of Mark Bradford’s work that opened in Columbus in May 2010 and will travel to the ICA Boston, MCA Chicago, Dallas Museum of Art, and SFMoMA, as well as smaller shows of work by Alyson Shotz and Susan Philipsz, and a group exhibition entitled Hard Targets. Projects in progress include solo presentations of work by Erwin Redl, Tobias Putrih and MOS, Katy Moran, Joel Morrison, Nathalie Djurberg, and Paul Sietsema, as well as a Facture and Fidelity: Painting, 1945-2013, co-organized with Katy Siegel, which will open at the Wexner Center in 2013.  He has written extensively on art for publications including Artforum, Art in America, Frieze and October.


touring schedule

Cranbrook Art Museum
Bloomfield Hills, MI, United States
June 23, 2014 - June 23, 2014

The Andy Warhol Museum
Pittsburgh, PA, United States
May 26, 2011 - August 7, 2011

Middlebury College Museum of Art
Middlebury, VT, United States
February 3, 2011 - April 17, 2011

Art Gallery of Calgary
Calgary, Canada
April 30, 2010 - September 4, 2010

Wexner Center for the Arts
Columbus, OH, United States
January 29, 2010 - April 11, 2010

Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture
Baltimore, MD, United States
October 8, 2009 - December 12, 2009

Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University
Middletown, CT, United States
September 1, 1998 - November 2, 1998

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