To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art: Weatherspoon Art Museum | UNC Greensboro, North Carolina
From its storied invention in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith as a recreational activity for “incorrigible” youth, to its multibillion-dollar industry today, basketball has uniquely captured America’s imagination—and stolen North Carolina's heart.
Embedded in its history are many of the topics fueling current social concerns and contemporary art. Divisions between rural and urban cultures can be considered in the distinctions between the sport’s development in farming town gymnasiums and inner-city playgrounds. Increasing commercialization can be traced through its intersections with fashion and franchising. Issues of racial equity reverberate through the NBA and NCAA. And, the advancement of women’s roles can likewise be considered through the early adaptation of rules for female athletes and the successes of the WNBA.
That game’s golden era of the late 1970s through the 1990s coincided with both an explosion of the contemporary art market and with artistic shifts towards addressing so many of the social issues—race, gender, economics—that readily surface in basketball’s widespread popularity. And, basketball’s distinct visual qualities make it an apt subject for artists: unlike a baseball concealed in a glove or a football buried under a pileup, a basketball is readily seen, and the athletes wear relatively minimal uniforms on an indoor court where cameras easily capture their expressions as they soar towards elevated goals.
To the Hoop explores these myriad facets of basketball’s intersection with contemporary art and culture, offering an opportunity to consider our world through the overlapping lenses of sport and art.
EXHIBITING ARTISTS: Gina Adams | Daniel Arsham | Bill Bamberger | Janet Biggs | Mark Bradford | Kendell Carter | André Leon Gray | David Hammons | David Hilliard | David Huffman | Brian Jungen | Jeff Koons | Suzanne McClelland | Esmaa Mohamoud | New Craft Artists in Action (NCAA) | Paul Pfeiffer | Joyce J. Scott | Lorna Simpson | Victor Solomon | Hank Willis Thomas | Nari Ward
— Curatorial text courtesy the Weatherspoon Art Museum