The Long Count

Richie Culver, Irvin Pascal, Rayvenn D'Clark, Frédéric Platéus, Alexander Glass, René Wagner, Nathan Eastwood

45 Hays Mews, Mayfair, London | Dec 14 - Dec 15, 2017

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PRESS RELEASE

 

von Goetz is pleased to announce its upcoming group exhibition titled The Long Count. Taking place at 45 Hays Mews, Mayfair, London and featuring the work of seven artists from Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom: works in painting, sculpture and ceramic will address issues and themes that are ingrained in both contemporary art and competitive sport.

Taking its name from a video artwork by Paul Pfeiffer and the infamous boxing rematch in 1927 between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney: the exhibition comes at a moment when the popular culture of sport is challenged by a morally driven persona non grata. The Long Count fight, Tunney vs. Dempsey, is named as such for the delay in the count due to Dempsey’s failing to return to his neutral corner. It was attended by nearly 105,000 people, and marks a moment in sports history where the sports spectacle became mass phenomena and media fodder. The exhibition The Long Count, takes the long pause and returns to neutrality, a moment of repose in the midst of a violent narrative.  

Colin Kaepernick aligned himself with a history of African-American athletes for whom the victory podium presented a stage to catalyse ideological and political debate. 1966: Muhammad Ali denies the Vietnam draft; 1972: Tommie Smith and John Carlos punch their gloved fists skyward at the Mexico City Olympics; 1996: N.B.A. player Mahmoud Abdul-Rouf prays as the anthem sounds in accordance with his Islamic faith that considers its patriotism an oppressive ideology. These are moments of our shared social and political history. The belief that sport, framed by sponsors and commercially incentivised time and space, is unable to leap from the ring of contestation and begin picking fights with the crowd is an illusion.

Pfeiffer’s synonymous video work features looped footage of the 1964 boxing match between Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali. Both athletes having been removed from the video sequence, Pfeiffer’s process creates a pair of ghostly, scarcely visible beings that oscillate across the crowd like sunlight dappling through trees. The implications of erasure, particularly in this instance of the two African-American athletes, are evident; the remaining faces in the stadium of the footage are mainly white, and their spectatorship, fervor and blood lust is the remnant focal point of the work. Pfeiffer’s elimination the athletes from the ring leaves nothing but an empty spectacle and the mass hysteria of the crowd – ominously calling forth violence, echoing race riots and political tension of the 60’s and the present day. The Long Count exhibition questions the lenses through which we view the athletic performance and the art object, combining explicit narratives with more covert ones.

 

The works in the group show The Long Count, breathe new life into appropriation, class structures, gender and sportsmanship. Weaving themes and motifs of genre painting and devotional works, the exhibition will present a series of vignettes – scenes from a contemporary altarpiece, probing the importance of myth and identity to the genres of sport and art. 

The processes through which we perceive the athletic gesture compliment our approach of the art object. The stadium, courts, pools and racecourses, all situate the athletic performance within a delineated and reassembled space. The spaces are designed, they are constructed to have boundaries, rows of seats, a rigorous attention to detail in how the action plays out within the confines of the rules of the game, within the confines of spectatorship, and even taking into account the commercial interests through which the space is funded and maintained. What the sports space has in common with the art gallery is this framing device – the refashioning of environments to create suitable atmospheric conditions for the completion of artist/athlete task. In other words, the stadium and the gallery represent the final form of the artistic/athletic object. It is in this setting that they are isolated for interpretation. Sports fan and connoisseur alike address the space as sacred and honour the relationship between object, space and audience.

 

The seven artists featured in this exhibition present work that provides a vehicle for multiple interpretations of the athletic performance and how it is complicit in social history, constrained by industry and under scrutiny for its hyper-masculinity. For some, sport does not feature in the processes that inform the work – for others, it is a cornerstone. 

 

Irvin Pascal, recently featured in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries, has a visual language associated with Modernism, rooted in the imagery of continental African and Polynesian ceremonial figures. His black stars, however, are just that: black athletes who embody and victoriously transcend the combative challenge of race and power.

 

In the sculpture of Rayvenn D’Clark’s the black body is laid in traction. She increasingly analyses the characteristics of art making following the affirmation of media; examining the exercise of sculpture in an art-market now technologically underpinned. Her work engages in a discussion of the outsider position of black artists in a whitewashed art-world, commenting on the ‘balance of power’ that exists between the museums and collections and the artists who seek to modify long-standing institutional narratives.

 

Rene Wagner’s ceramics are unique, and build on an idea relating to branding and the commercial sphere. His work has been exhibited in museums across Germany: The Kunsthalle Kassel & Willingshausen, and the Kusterverein Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin.

 

Nathan Eastwood’s practice employs painting as an analytical medium, scrutinising class structures and giving new weight to the term realism. His paintings aim to be just this, real. Through the paint medium Eastwood is able to isolate his subject matter and challenge the shortsightedness of documentary photography and socially engaged artwork that abuses the relationship between the artist and their subject, glamourising the reality they reference.

Alexander Glass deploys a slick and rigorous sculptural language – his objects, installations and videos flaunt the aesthetic of a pastiche, wearing their mock, faux reality with a pastel coloured palette and plastic materiality. Glass applies this approach to mould-making and casting to imitate and undermine the masculine archetypes that pervade the sites of sport, through which he engages with the sexual and homoerotic connotations that the athletic competition implies. Glass’ sculptures reassess the nature of our environments, and call-out the fetishisation of the object and glorification of the body. His sculptures are soft reminders that our bodies and the spaces they inhabit are not impartial, and evince the seductive nature of pure aesthetic pleasure.

 

Richie Culver does not shy away from brandishing his own biography, employing tradesman’s material and narratives that derive from folkloric histories of sports heroes, soap opera stars or social stereotypes. The use of Polycell (wall filler) and motifs synonymous with the working classes situate Culver in an ongoing dialogue between high contemporary art and the low daily concerns of the “Everyman”.  His use of the blank canvas or monochromatic space, the austerity with which gives the paintings their poignancy, creates a frankness of address that endows each work with a colloquialism and honesty that resists all out abstraction, in favour of Culver’s Hull mother tongue.

 

Frederic Plateus from Liège, Belgium will be showing his large-scale sculptural paintings. His work has an essentialist quality that has roots in Russian Constructivism and points towards the concept cars of 1950s America. In the work, something is glossed over, a hopefulness that the future would look a certain way.

 

Acknowledging the contextual framework for artist and athlete alike, ‘The Long Count’, will pose the question of how we interpret the art object, and how we negotiate moral and social motivations that are inherent to its creation. The sports environment has been undermined and called out on the grounds of its apolitical presupposition. Whilst art has long since served as a tool for protestation, rarely has it been called into question or highlighted that the lens through which we view the art object is designed to contain and shackle the socio-political voice of the artist. Such that sport commands an enormous global fan base, energised by media analysis, we see the repercussions of challenges to this framework far more than that of the art world. ‘The Long Count’ will pitch style against substance in an attempt to bring the plastic pressures of art making against the high conceptual concerns of the contemporary artist.

 

"You were the best. You fought a smart fight, kid.” – Dempsey to Tunney, 1927.

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