“To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art”: An exhibition now on view at the Weatherspoon Art Museum

small basketball court in a farm field

Bill Bamberger, Farm Home by Cotton Field, Plymouth, North Carolina, 2004, color inkjet print, 19 5/16 x 28 7/8 in. Edition. Courtesy of the artist. © Bill Bamberger.

Now through June 1: To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, 2nd Floor: The Bob & Lissa Shelley McDowell Gallery and Gallery 6

Thursday February 27, 6:30 p.m.,  Talk: To the Hoop, Emily Stamey

Our friendly neighborhood art museum has a timely new exhibition, organized by Dr. Emily Stamey, curator of exhibitions and College Hill neighbor. From the WAM website:

From its storied invention in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith as a recreational activity for “incorrigible” youth, to its multibillion-dollar industry today, basketball has uniquely captured America’s imagination—and stolen North Carolina’s heart.

Embedded in its history are many of the topics fueling current social concerns and contemporary art. Divisions between rural and urban cultures can be considered in the distinctions between the sport’s development in farming town gymnasiums and inner-city playgrounds. Increasing commercialization can be traced through its intersections with fashion and franchising. Issues of racial equity reverberate through the NBA and NCAA. And, the advancement of women’s roles can likewise be considered through the early adaptation of rules for female athletes and the successes of the WNBA.

That game’s golden era of the late 1970s through the 1990s coincided with both an explosion of the contemporary art market and with artistic shifts towards addressing so many of the social issues—race, gender, economics—that readily surface in basketball’s widespread popularity. And, basketball’s distinct visual qualities make it an apt subject for artists: unlike a baseball concealed in a glove or a football buried under a pileup, a basketball is readily seen, and the athletes wear relatively minimal uniforms on an indoor court where cameras easily capture their expressions as they soar towards elevated goals.

To the Hoop explores these myriad facets of basketball’s intersection with contemporary art and culture, offering an opportunity to consider our world through the overlapping lenses of sport and art.

woman wearing basketball-jersey wedding dress

Esmaa Mohamoud, One of the Boys (Yellow Back), 2018, color inkjet print, 60 x 40 in. Edition. Courtesy of the artist and Georgia Scherman Projects, Toronto. © Esmaa Mohamoud.

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