Starting in 2013, Los Angeles-based conceptual artist Glenn Kaino has had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with a man whose act of protest had long inspired him. “Bridge” is Kaino’s 100-foot long construction featuring two hundred casts of former American track and field runner and Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith’s arm, which he raised as a human rights salute during the National Anthem after taking gold at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Kaino’s work will be installed as a part of a larger exhibition at the High Museum in Atlanta in fall 2018. We spoke with the artist to learn more about how his collaboration with Smith came to be.
On the podium of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, African American medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos went from being top-performing athletes representing the United States to legendary activists with a simple yet powerful gesture. The photograph of Smith and Carlos with their heads lowered and their leather-clad fists raised is one of the most iconic images of the 20th century, and Kaino tells Colossal that it is one that he used to have taped to the side of his iMac.
A friend of Kaino’s noticed the picture and referred to Tommie as “Coach Smith,” revealing that he knew the former athlete from his days as track coach. The friend set up the meeting, and Kaino soon found himself at Coach Smith’s home in Atlanta, watching tape of the race in slow motion as Tommie broke it down almost frame by frame. “I didn’t have a pitch,” Kaino said of the way he finally approached the topic of collaboration with the gold medalist and his wife, “but I did have an observation.” He noticed that Tommie Smith’s home was like a “time bubble,” with memorabilia and references to his career and to his most famous moment. Kaino says that as someone who was born after the salute, the image has always been symbolic, but for the Smiths it was personal. “You shook my hand with that arm, you brush your teeth with that arm,” he said to Tommie.
Through the conversation, Kaino convinced Tommie to collaborate on a project that would remove the icon (the arm) from his body and help him see the salute the way that others do. Back in Los Angeles, after experimenting with what Kaino believes to have been the arm of an Aquaman figure, they got to work casting Smith’s arm and clenched fist. He used the cast to create hundreds of fiberglass arms, which he then painted gold and hung from wires to form, according to the artist’s website, “a golden path leading forward from the present but connected to the past, a spectacular reconciliation of a historic record, an individual memory, and a public symbol all renegotiated in an infrastructure of time to creates stories of the now.”
As for connecting the past and present, it is interesting to consider Kaino’s work and Smith’s salute as it relates to Black athletes today, like Colin Kaepernick, who are criticized for publicly protesting similar issues 50 years later. Kaino tells Colossal that he is working on a documentary to tell Smith’s story that goes deeper than the one image that everyone knows. For those who want to see “Bridge” in person, the exhibition, titled With Drawn Arms: Glenn Kaino and Tommie Smith, opens in Atlanta, Georgia at the High Museum on September 29, 2018. (via Artnet)
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The Dizzying Patterns of Movement at Athletic Events Captured in Composite Photographs by Pelle Cass
Photographer Pelle Cass documents the flurry of activity and movement that occurs at sporting events in a unique series of masterfully edited images titled ‘Crowded Fields.’ The Boston-area artist attends local college games, and takes upward of one thousand photographs over the course of an hour or two. Cass then spends dozens of hours editing the photos to arrive at the final composition.
Although the images are highly manipulated, with over five hundred Photoshop layers involved, Cass notes that each and every figure remains in the original location and position that they were in at the time the photo was taken. His compositional effort is to understand and convey the visual story that unfolded over the course of the sporting event. The artist explains to Colossal, “I scroll up and down, over and over looking for figures I think are interesting. It’s a little like slow-motion Tetris, trying to fit various shapes into various spaces. Then, with luck, a set of coincidences or a kind of gesture or spatial idea begins to emerge.”
Cass, who has been taking photographs for nearly fifty years, developed his current technique over time. The specific idea of using sporting events as his canvas took a decade to evolve. He describes his motivation to create these dizzyingly complex images: “I think that conventional single-exposure photographs distort by their inhuman briefness. The eye never sees a single moment… When you come home from a hockey game, you might remember a few specific images of big plays, but otherwise your memory of a game is a bit more like a general impression of many-figured bustle and activity.”
You can see more of Cass’s photography on his website and Instagram, including his ongoing series ‘Selected People,’ thematically similar composite images of people in public places. Cass also has photographs on display at the New Mexico Museum of Art through October 7, 2018, as part of the exhibition ‘Shifting Light: Photographic Perspectives.’ (via Booooooom)
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Project Backboard began in 2014 when Daniel Peterson, a former college basketball player and employee of the Memphis Grizzlies, noticed the neglected state of several basketball courts scattered around the city. To revive these spaces, Peterson began to refurbish the courts with small improvements—filling in cracks or repainting the basic lines needed for a regulation game.
As Peterson began updating courts across Memphis, his interest widened to include ways he could not only improve his local courts, but generate excitement in surrounding neighborhoods for their public parks. After learning local artist Anthony Lee was already designing an installation for a nearby court, he partnered with the artist to paint the park’s gray asphalt with bright blue and pink designs. The collaboration marked the beginning of Project Backboard, while also inspiring Peterson work with local artists who were already engaged within a chosen community.
“I prefer to work with artists who have a connection to the park or city where we are working,” Peterson told Colossal. “Having the artist on site is very helpful for installation and, especially if it is a city I am not as familiar with, a local artist can create a work with more meaning and context. That said, there are artists I have worked with in the past that I would love to work with again if the right opportunity comes along!”
After reviving several basketball courts in Memphis, Project Backboard has moved on to produce projects in St. Louis and Los Angeles. Currently the organization is working with cities along the East Coast, specifically Baltimore and New Rochelle, New York. To explore other updated courts, and how you might be able to collaborate on an installation in your own city, visit Project Blackboard’s website or Instagram. (via Artsy and the National Endowment for the Arts)
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German photographer Robert Götzfried (previously) seeks out unique architecture for series that focus on one particular element of a culture or place. Previous projects have documented the pipe organs of 20 German Catholic churches, observed the creative construction of Cambodia’s roadside barber shops, and captured abandoned storefronts that exist across Australia.
For the last few years Götzfried has focused on photographing the design of bowling alleys and “Kegelbahnen” across Southern Germany, most of which exist from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Kegeln is a German sport similar to bowling, however with smaller balls, only nine pins, and shortened lanes. The sport has fallen from popularity, and many of the photographed lanes’ quality has diminished with the times. You can see a larger selection of Götzfried’s photographic projects on his website, Instagram, and Behance. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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To spark interest for the upcoming 2017 Summer Universiade, the city of Taipei has employed a fantastic marketing strategy that sees the city’s subway cars turned into realistic backdrops of several popular sporting venues. The floors of each car have been replaced by laminate overlays of track lanes, grass turf, basketball courts, and baseball fields—though by far the most popular car is the swimming pool. The Universiade begins August 19th and involves 22 different sports across 70 venues. You can see more photos of the Taipei MRT transit cars on Instagram. (via Design You Trust, Taiwan News)
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In a unique collaboration between French fashion brand Pigalle and design agency Ill-Studio, the Paris Duperré basketball court was recently redesigned and repainted with a vibrant new color scheme. The narrow basketball court is nestled between two apartment buildings in the 9th arrondissement and has become a backdrop of sorts for unconventional color schemes, the first of which appeared in 2015. Photos courtesy Alex Penfornis and Sébastien Michelini. (via It’s Nice That)
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Iceland-based artist James Merry (previously) uses sportswear logos as the basis to his embroidered designs, planting thread-based mushrooms, strawberries, and various flowers on top of Nike swooshes and the ADIDAS logo’s three bars. Although you might not guess it from the simplicity of his sportswear alterations, Merry is a key collaborator with Björk, and has designed many of her costumes for tour and film. You can see more of his blossoming sports logos and elaborate costume designs on his website and Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Painting
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.