5 Sporty Artworks to Get You Psyched for Rio
Pump up your Olympic excitement, in spite of it all!
Set aside, if you will, thoughts of Zika, political violence, and filthy virus-laden swimming waters for a moment. The event athletes all around the world have been training for is finally here: the Summer Olympics! While this year’s press coverage has been dominated by controversy—often the case, every four years—we can’t help but get into the Olympic spirit and can’t wait to watch everyone compete. Athletes train so long and so hard, they deserve a moment in the sun (rampant doping scandals not withstanding, of course). If you’re lacking in the enthusiasm department, we’ve rounded up the work of five artists below that manage to inventively glorify the modern athlete.
These days it’s not enough to be a phenomenal athlete, you also have to be your own brand. With social media and celebrity culture playing a large part in sponsorships, athletes face added pressure to fit a certain mold and score lucrative deals. In her series The Champions, Argentine artist Romina Ressia addresses these challenges head-on. Her arresting photograph The Woman and the Hen features a female athlete in an editorial setting with the unsettling juxtaposition of a farm animal propped on her hip. The swimmer refuses to play the popularity game, proudly displaying her “trophy” hen with a diamond collar.
For Olympians, insane levels of discipline mean that the banalities of daily life and their sport are often so laced together it’s hard to differentiate between the two. In Boxing Gloves by Hugh Kretschmer, we see such dedication literalized, where a body becomes veritably bound to sport. The hands Kretschmer depicts here form into boxing gloves, serving as a weighty reminder of athletic power and passion. We suggest hanging this work in your walk-in closet or over your vanity, so you start every day with a fresh punch of inspiration.
It’s easy to forget how strenuous some sports are when the competitors make it look all so effortless. No one knows this more than a gymnast, where every tiny movement is crucial and must be completed with a smile. In her hyper-realistic Dancer with Ribbon, American sculptor Carole A. Feuerman presents a rhythmic gymnast gracefully waving her ribbon towards the gold. Her pose and defined musculature hint at the athletic prowess and control needed for such a difficult move, but looking at her serene face you would never know.
Olympics athletes take a leap of faith knowing that, despite their talent and effort, medal outcomes are unpredictable. In Tom Judd’s work, Diving Figure #4, we see the moment just before the diver’s fate is determined, captured in free fall. Just like an athlete’s inability to predict his or her place on the podium, by capturing this transitory moment, Judd leaves us to wonder about the fate of the diver.
Despite all of the pain, angst, dedication and time commitment required by an athlete to get to the Olympic games, nothing beats the ultimate prize—the gold medal. In painter Beryl Cook’s Tennis, jovial competitors display their best sportsmanship in front of a cheering crowd. There’s real excitement and joy on the winner’s face as he basks in his glory, something Cook manages to capture in her goofy, Botero-esque style. The losing player looks less pleased, of course, but hey, that’s the game. Now that the art world has gotten you primed and ready, tune in and let Rio take the reins.
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