Reception: Friday, June 1 from 7pm to 9pm
VisArts presents Power Forward, a group exhibition of artists who draw upon the hidden and political histories of sports to open up analyses of the social world. On view from May 23-July 1, the exhibition features the work of nearly a dozen artists and a series of free public events. Generous funding has been provided by the Windgate Charitable Foundation.
“Sports are not a refuge from the ‘real world.’ Sports have been and always are political,” writes Astria Suparak, the curator of Power Forward. “Who gets to play? Who is penalized for what? Which stadiums are built? Where? And with whose money? Eminent domain, organized labor, drug and gender testing, commercial sponsorships, tax breaks, bribery, and abuse scandals are just some of the ways power is flexed daily within what has been called a secular religion and a proxy war.”
Contemporary artists from the U.S., Canada, China, and Lebanon delve into the worlds of football, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, hockey, tennis, and golf—from the heights of the Olympics down to college teams and more intimate arenas such as cramped apartments. The exhibiting artists are Haig Aivazian, Cara Erskine, Karen Kraven, Nicolas Lampert, Cait McKinney & Hazel Meyer, Gao Mingyan, Ayanah Moor, Macon Reed, and Zhang Qing. Their subjects and inspirations include Washington’s NFL and NBA teams, Brittney Griner, Magic Johnson, Simone Biles, Nadia Comăneci, and Billie Jean King.
The title of the exhibition, Power Forward, refers to a position in basketball that emphasizes a combination of strength and skill. Traditionally, it has been the domain of lumbering, back-to-the-basket scorers and stout rebounders. But over the past decade it’s evolved into a role that requires increased quickness, defensive versatility, and outside shooting skills. In like manner, many of the artists in Power Forward are versatile in sports—as current or former athletes, as serious fans, and as makers inspired by athletics. The title also references the Black Panthers slogan, “All Power To The People” and the desire for shifts in the balance of power.
The exhibition includes a series of events including:
- A rooftop film screening of short works that remediate sports history from fan perspectives with glee and irreverence (A Beautiful Game, Wednesday, June 27, 9-10:30pm, on the Rooftop at VisArts [in case of rain: Buchanan Room] with a popcorn bar).
- A discussion on sports and politics with local experts (Saturday, June 23, 4-5:30pm at VisArts, Kaplan Gallery, 2nd floor). Topics may include recent protests, the realities and repercussions for athletes (both on and off-field), the exploitative treatment of Washington’s NFL cheerleaders, and other timely and local issues.
- A contest for the “Sports G.G.O.A.T. (Greatest GIF of All Time),” to be decided by the audience in a NCAA bracket-style tournament, with prizes. The event will also include readings of poetry made from re-edited television interviews of athletes (a project of writers Pasha Malla and Jeff Parker), and will serve as the Rockville launch of the Sports issue of INCITE Journal of Experimental Media (Monday, June 4, 6:30pm, at Finnegan’s Wake Irish Pub, Rockville Town Square).
- To participate, the public is invited to submit a favorite sports GIF, original or found, by May 30th. Instructions at: bit.ly/sports-gif-contest
- Sports-themed cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages will be available at all events.
Power Forward is curated by the 2018 VisArts Mentoring Curator Astria Suparak of Oakland, California, with the assistance of 2018 VisArts Emerging Curator Anthony Stepter. Generous funding for Power Forward has been provided by the Windgate Charitable Trust.
About the Curator
Astria Suparak has curated exhibitions, screenings, live music events and performances for art spaces, film festivals, and academic venues internationally, including PS1, Eyebeam Art+Technology Center, Museo Rufino Tamayo (Mexico City), and the Liverpool Biennial 2004, as well as for non-art spaces such as roller-skating rinks, elementary schools, sports bars, rock clubs, and ferries.
She co-edited the latest issue of INCITE Journal of Experimental Media, titled Sports, which is accompanied by a series of exhibitions and events throughout 2018 at locations including the Wexner Center, the Gene Siskel Film Center, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Previous exhibitions she’s curated include Keep It Slick: Infiltrating Capitalism with The Yes Men, the first survey of the internationally renowned culture-jamming group; Whatever It Takes: Steelers Fan Collections, Rituals, and Obsessions, which explored sports fanaticism as a significant form of cultural production; and Alien She, a traveling exhibition on the lasting impact of the global punk feminist movement Riot Grrrl.
- Wednesday & Thursday: 12 – 4pm
- Friday: 12 – 8pm
- Saturday & Sunday: 12 – 4pm
VisArts at Rockville is located three blocks from the Rockville Metro station at 155 Gibbs Street, Rockville, MD. For information, please visit www.visartscenter.org or call 301-315-8200.