NEW YORK, NY 10002
IMAGE: Balls to the Wall, 2013, installation view. Photo: Jason Mandella HI-RES
On View: July 11 — August 16, 2013
Reception: July 11, 2013   6-8pm

DODGEgallery is pleased to present Balls to the Wall, a group exhibition with Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Matt Browning, Tim Davis, Leah Dixon, Dario Escobar, Leo Fitzmaurice, Nina Katchadourian and Lisa Young. Balls to the Wall explores the intersections of art and sport, aspirations and failures, and the humor in between.

Athletics play a significant role in Western culture and are introduced to us from a young age, whether through actual participation, attendance or media observation, which for some develops into intense vicarious involvement. The high of participation and ultimate glory of winning is instilled alongside the fear of failure and rejection. Dario Escobar’s Bicho No. 4, are two ping-pong paddles that are disjointed and connected with ample hinges. The metal hardware exaggerates the dysfunctionality of the bent paddles and their absurdity as conjoined opponents. Bicho No. 4 plays into the fear of failure by exemplifying defeat from the outset- no one wins. Similarly, Matt Browning’s Mountain Scene, composed of skis that have been cut into multiple diamond-shapes, and re-formed into mountain-like peeks, appear as seemingly brutalist abstract forms. These large dense objects suggest power and strength; however, Browning uses the supple underside of the ski, exposing their vulnerability and fallibility. They have been spliced to form the thing that they are intended to surmount.

Prescribing to a team often eases the extremes found in solitude with that of a communal solidarity. Winning becomes more celebratory with a squad and losing becomes a shared burden. Solitude is highlighted in Tim Davis’ Upstate New York Olympics as he conceives and executes his own sports, from “Rusty Pipe Drag” to “National Geographic Gymnastics,” all of which are played alone and filmed by a stationary camera—the antithesis of the modern Olympics. Presented on three large screens mimicking the layout of a sports bar, Davis invites the viewer into a split-focus, hyper-consumption of his struggles. The futility of these events heightens the viewer’s sense of Davis’ isolation, which amplifies our empathy. We root for him, we laugh at the absurdity of his tasks, we share in relief when he’s successful and wince when he “fails”. Lacking opponents, Davis is a one-man show. His competition is himself, his challenges are self-created, and his drive is amidst seclusion.

The participants are not the sole figures in sport; the spectator plays a significant role. One selects (or is born into) a team to support. A sense of community is found within fellow fans through watching the wins and losses as a group. Leo Fitzmaurice’s soccer (football) jerseys made of folded cigarette cartons speak to the cultural obsession of watching sports whilst sitting in a bar/pub and entertaining vices that premier athletes are meant to abstain from. Watching athletes exert themselves physically in ways unfathomable to the common person, the spectator enthusiastically consumes alcohol, fast food and cigarettes in solidarity with fellow fans. Presented as a series, the miniature jerseys call to the other element of consumption—memorabilia. A massive market is dedicated to the ownership of various sports/team paraphernalia from jerseys to balls to hats, Fitzmaurice gives us these items out of an everyday piece of trash, highlighting the kitsch aspect of the collectable.

The game of sport harkens to that of battle with two (or more) contending forces/teams. Leah Dixon’s works Chaos in the Sky, Comfort on the Floor, and Impetuous Interests directly reference notions of modern warfare with bomb imagery inlaid on yoga mats. A practice that is defined by leaving the body behind and connecting to the spirit, yoga strives toward a peaceful existence. Dixon’s mats, the very object that the body is grounded on in practice, depict imagery that mimics the graphics of video games, a consumer avenue through which war has become a part of our collective conscience. The flat graphics integrated into the yoga mat leave the question open as to what gains precedence here. The material composition proposes a means for defusing and conquering, as if through practice and repetition one can control reactions to the influx of violent imagery—or be consumed by it.

Sweat, labor, practice and fine tweaking can be found across all levels of athletics, not just the elite. Sport can easily become an obsession; athletes by many standards would be considered unstable, always seeking to reach the next level with a relentless ambition. Nina Katchadourian’s piece, Mallory’s Words, depicts the legendary mountaineer George Mallory’s famous response to the question, “Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?” His reply, “Because it’s there,” provides the form for the installation, made entirely of rock climbing holds that ascend the wall of the inner gallery as if reaching for the unattainable. Here, Katchadourian humorously makes language material, and sentiment suggestive— as if we can all practice the impossible.

The constant strive towards perfection speaks broadly to the human spirit. The notion of continually laboring towards such an unachievable goal finds grace in triumph and humility in defeat. Lisa Young’s Lyra Angelica pays homage to the figure skater, Michelle Kwan, an athlete who was repeatedly heralded to win it all but always fell just short of the gold. In Lyra Angelica, Young splits the screen into four different performances of the same routine so the viewer can watch as Kwan comes off pace, fails and triumphs. As spectators, our vicarious participation is guided and dramatized by the choreography of multiple images and the announcers’ audio recordings. Young tunes in and out of the audio of each performance at specific points to interplay the sensationalization and genuine support of each respective broadcaster. Young’s selection of her subject exemplifies the obsession of grinding towards perfection. The sport itself, figure skating, is one that is extremely physically demanding but meant to look absolutely effortless.

Athletics and labor merge through the intense requirements of the body. In his piece Melon n Ball (Mop), Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom uses the tools of manual work, a mop and paint, with the densest of sport equipment, a bowling ball. Humorously, the form assumes a human scale, as if upside down. Boakye-Yiadom has rendered both the tools of labor and sport unusable, framing their gained futility. By displaying the objects on a pedestal in a plexi case, Boakye-Yiadom immortalizes them like trophies or pieces of memorabilia retaining their newly impotent existence.

Each of the artists in Balls to the Wall taps into the shared human experience of athletics as a means to express the balance and contradictions between aspirations and limitations. Exploring the elements of team, labor, perfection and defeat, they have all chosen sports that are less than mainstream in this country. By not tackling one of the big three—baseball, basketball and football—the exhibition edges towards the experience of obscurity. Each artist has found beauty and often humor in the highs and lows of their representations, perhaps connecting to the greater human condition.