By Zara Husaini
The Andy Warhol Museum has long been Pittsburgh’s most well known space for boundary-pushing, culturally relevant art. The seven-floor museum is primarily dedicated to the late Warhol’s pop art, but the staff regularly brings a diverse range of exhibitions to the museum’s top floor.
This summer, the featured show is entitled “Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports.” The exhibit is on view through August 7, so catch it this week. Curated by Christopher Bedford, it features depictions of male athletes and the cultural ideas that support the phenomena of commercial athletics.
It’s been said that masculinity is too often described in “black-and-white” terms – while the concept of femininity has been explored and debated at length, ideas of what men should and should not be often go ignored in the art world. This show provides a variety of images that shed some light on the issue of masculinity, ranging from conservative to controversial.
Written ideas are posted amongst the visual art, causing the images to take on a new meaning. One board suggests that struggle between men is the central drama of sport – the idea is evidenced by the shots of men brutally wrestling one another to the ground, which are placed beside these words. Another claims that “homosociality,” or the process of male bonding, centers around homophobia. The art isn’t just confined to the walls here (after all, this is the museum that houses a room full of “silver clouds”, which visitors are encouraged to touch.) A hanging display of football helmets serves as the centerpiece for part of the collection.
Here’s some info on some more of the artists and pieces that make up “Mixed Signals.”
Hank Willis Thomas
Thomas is a photo artist from New Jersey. He tends to focus on themes of cultural identity. Thomas incorporates the Nike symbol into his work – in one image, the logo is branded multiple times into a man’s bare chest; the message seems to be that men are expected to withstand a great deal of physical pain. Another image, entitled “Something To Stand On: The Third Leg” shows the silhouette of a man with three legs, raising a basketball high into the air. The theme is unmistakably phallic and speaks volumes about the physical expectations of masculinity.
Schorr is a Queens native who chooses to focus her artwork on adolescent males and females. Schorr’s trademark is her depiction of men in moments of weakness. Rather than focus on times of glory, her art showcases “unscripted moments.” In this exhibit, she’s done a piece entitled “Cowboys (A Prayer Before Dying).” It’s a photo of a group of men hunched over, their backs turned to the camera. Though you can’t see their faces, there is something extraordinarily grim about the photo. It’s packed with the idea that men should hide their feelings at all costs.
A photographer from Ohio, Opie often does portraits of members of the LGBTQ community. Opie has taken both portraits and landscapes of high school football players around the country, an attempt to observe American identity. Opie’s contribution to the exibnit may be its most iconic shot – it features a young football player, his jersey lifted to reveal CARDIAC PADS fastened to his chest. This photograph is entitled simply “Josh.”
Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity In Sports
Through August 7
Andy Warhol Museum
117 Sandusky Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Hours: Tues – Thurs 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Fri 10 a.m. – 10 a.m., Sat – Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Mon closed
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