September 6, 2011

Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports at Wesleyan’s Zilkha Gallery

Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University
Catherine Opie, Josh, 2007.
Chromogenic print. 30″ x 22.25″.
Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports is a traveling exhibition of works by contemporary artists that probes the stereotype of the American male athlete. 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, and ask us to think beyond the images we encounter in Sports Illustrated or Nike ads. 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. 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. Matthew Barney’s early sculptural work with Vaseline and weight-training equipment, as well as his body-based performance practice, stress the sexual, sometimes abject dimension of athletic training. Many artists and theorists have argued that social identities—including race, gender and sexuality—are performed and coded. However, the male athlete has been overlooked by 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: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports will be on view in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts from Friday, September 9 through Sunday, October 23, 2011.
Gallery Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, Noon–4pm; Friday, Noon–8pm. Gallery admission is free.


The public is invited to attend the opening reception on Friday, September 9 from 5pm to 7pm, with a gallery talk at 5:30pm by artist Shaun El C. Leonardo.


There will also be a screening of two films by Matthew Barney—Cremaster 4 (1994) and Drawing Restraint 10 (2005)—on Tuesday, September 27 at 7:30pm in the Powell Family Cinema, located in the Center for Film Studies at 301 Washington Terrace on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown.

Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports is co-sponsored at Wesleyan University by the Art History Program of the Department of Art and Art History, Physical Education Department, and the Center for Film Studies.


The catalogue will be available for sale at the Center for the Arts.


Andrew Chatfield
Press & Marketing Manager
Center for the Arts
Wesleyan University
[email protected]




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