subversive images of sports culture by collier schorr, catherine opie, and sadie barnette

31 female artists challenge the macho athlete archetype in 'March Madness,' an exhibition striking at the intersection of sports and politics during Women's History Month.

by Hannah Ongley
16 March 2017, 10:27pm

Collier Schorr, "Beauty (K.T.)," 2002 

As #MarchMadness soars above the political chaos to hit the top of Twitter's trending list, a different take on the annual sports showdown is happening in NYC. Hank Willis Thomas and Adam Shopkorn have curated an exhibition that looks at the sports world from the perspective of women artists. Sadie Barnette, Catherine Opie, Zoe Buckman, Jordan Casteel, Miranda July, and Cindy Sherman are among the 31 artists whose work features in Fort Gansevoort's March Madness exhibition, which coincides with Women's History Month. Their work challenges traditional masculine archetypes by using athleticism to explore overlooked narratives, as well as issues of race, gender roles, empowerment, politics, and pop culture.

Catherine Opie, "High School Football," 2012

"For many, sports are a vehicle for upward mobility," says NYC art curator Kalia Brooks of the show. "The glamour of the professional athlete has attracted the ambition of young people for generations, and the ritual of competition liken the atmosphere at sporting events to that of a religious experience. For these reasons, the collective activity of participating in sports is imbued with the sensation of transcending physical and mental limitations."

Sadie Barnett, "Untitled (Pink Bike)," 2016

Adam and Hank are both self-described sports fans, having curated a previous March Madness show honoring the spirit of the Black Power salute thrown up by Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics. The most striking photographs in the new exhibition include Opie's atypical portraits of all-American high school football players, Sadie Barnette's photo of a plastic pink quad bike in front of a graffiti-covered fence, and Collier Schorr's haunting image of a fresh-faced kid in perfectly ill-fitting basketball silks. Elsewhere, painter Renée Cox imagines her racism-fighting superhero alter-ego Raje as the first Jamaican-American president, and Swiss pop artist Sylvie Fleury — tackling two timely sports tournaments at once — presents a Formula 1 racing dress designed in collaboration with Hugo Boss.

"March Madness" is on view at New York's Fort Gansevoot from March 16, 2017 through May 7, 2017. An opening reception takes place tonight from 6-9pm. 

Renee Cox, "Raje For President," Raje Series, 1998 

Rineke Dijkstra, "The Gymschool, St. Petersburg (Anna, Eva, Lera) #2," 2014

Miranda July, "Eleven Heavy Things," 2009

Sylvie Fleury, "Formula 1 Dress and Bag," 1999

Howardena Pindell, "Video Drawings: Hockey," 1975

Catherine Opie, "High School Football," 2012


Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy of Fort Gansevoort

march madness
Collier Schorr
Catherine Opie
Sadie Barnette
fort gansevoort