So, how ’bout those Mets?
Count this season’s most lovable local nine among the subjects of “The Sports Show,” presented by the School of Visual Arts at its Chelsea exhibition space. Bringing together more than 140 works by SVA grads, it provides a slice of the visual culture around athletics, from graphic design to photography, film, drawing, and painting. Though the work varies widely, it’s interesting to parse the lines between commercial work, “high” art, and the stuff of fandom.
David Levinson makes the kind of oil paintings that land in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and it’s a tie between their studied photorealism and their forced chiaroscuro that ranks them closer to kitsch than high art. Likewise, Graig Kreindler’s recent paintings of baseball legends like Mickey Mantle are the work of a latter-day Norman Rockwell. And the riotous three-dimensional constructions of Charles Fazzino could pass for art brut, or a sports-obsessed Ralph Fasanella.
Then there’s Sarah A. Friedman, whose photos of celeb athletes including LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, and Lolo Jones put the über in über-slick. Interestingly, Friedman recently ventured into sustainable farming and seems to have moved on from picture-taking. (Perhaps she tired of selling bodies as merch.)
We know work that’s rich and thoughtful when we see it, and it’s here in Brian Finke’s color photographs of football culture. Finke’s pictures point obliquely to the gender fluidity at play in this, one of the most hetero-seeming of sports. Here two young guys get touchy after a game, their halting half-embrace marking a homoerotic line they’re afraid to cross. Perhaps more singularly fascinating are the cheerleaders; one wears her makeup so impastoed she could pass for a drag queen. And when Finke turns his eye to professional bodybuilding, he finds a man whose tree-trunk-thick thighs dwarf the contents of his eensy turquoise thong. Though they act as documents, his images pose more questions than they answer — as it should be.
‘The Sports Show’
SVA Chelsea Gallery
601 West 26th Street, 15th floor
Through September 19