March Madness 2016 and its frenzy might be over for the season, but its ongoing controversies will not be forgotten. A collective show titled after the men’s college basketball tournament “March Madness” is now showing at the Fort Gansevoort Gallery. “March Madness” showcases over 40 works by 28 artists inspired by the corruption, oppression and exploitation that take place within the sports culture. The show is curated by Fort Gansevoort’s founder Adam Shopkorn in conjunction with Hank Willis Thomas, a contemporary African-American conceptual artist with a focus on racial identity, history and popular culture.
“The show’s organizers are clearly those rare fans who can see through the madness, beyond the white lines.” Robert Lipsyte
“Hands Up” an inescapable powerful work that demands attention and reflection by Robert Longo stands tall in the main gallery floor. The oversized charcoal triptych depicts five football players from the St. Louis Rams protesting police brutality and showing solidarity for the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black male who was fatally shot by a white police officer during the summer of 2014.
We all can agree that co-curator Hank Willis Thomas was the best man to get involve within the sourcing for this exhibition. His work is best known for its rawness, direct approach and for always questioning the norms within our society. His work showing two players jumping to reach a noose shaped hoop takes on the subject of exploitation of minorities by big corporations. “Black bodies were spectacles in slave markets and on lynching trees and whipping posts. They are spectacles in the NCAA, NBA, NFL drafts and combines. Their ancestors may have worked the cotton and tobacco fields that later became football fields.”
Nari Ward’s “Medicine Bats” encased in a glass cabinet similar to the ones found at medical labs are up for interpretations. Can it be a metaphor for the ongoing used of steroids within the sports community, or can it be interpreted in the similar matter brought up by Hank Willis Thomas, are these metaphoric representations of slave ancestors and cotton fields? Their modern counterparts being sport athletes and sport fields? What do you see?
Golf, a sport often affiliated with class inequality, was up for observation by Charles McGill. “What piece of sporting equipment lugs more classicism, racism, and inequality? Yet in McGill’s structured versions there are club protectors that suggest KKK hoods and straps that evoke slave restraints.”
Cheryl Pope’s banners inspired by those found in school gymnasiums state the obvious but not talk out loud objections, premonitions and questions. “The statements address issues of identity, relationships, sexual orientation, demeanor, and address issues that we deal with at any age. By locating them as championship statements, I am celebrating all that we deal with being ourselves and living with one another” Cheryl Pope
Other notable artists featured in the show are Derrick Adams, Sadie Barnette, Michael Ray Charles, Pamela Council, Emory Douglas, Derek Fordjour, Jeffrey Gibson, David Hammons, Satch Hoyt, David Huffman, Alex Israel, Rashid Johnson,Glen Kaino, Jeff Koons, Shaun Leonardo, Gordon Parks, Paul Pfeiffer, Raymond Pettibon, Cheryl Pope, Ronny Quevedo, Robin Rhode, William Scott, and Gary Simmons.
March Madness will show till May 1st, 2016 at the Fort Gansevoort Gallery 5 9th Avenue, New York
Photo By:Erica Genece
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