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To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art

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  • Gina Adams
    United States, (Ojibwa, Lakota, Irish, and Lithuanian descent) born 1965
    Honoring Modern Unidentified 27, Spirit That Remains, 2015
    Oil and encaustic on ceramic
    9 in. diameter
    Courtesy of the artist and Accola Griefen Fine Art, Brooklyn


    Gina Adams is interested in histories of cultural preservation and forced assimilation. In that context, basketball holds mixed connotations for her. She acknowledges that many Native Americans see the game as a path to both higher education and acceptance into popular culture. But, she also notes that basketball’s history in Native communities goes back to early twentieth-century boarding schools that forced indigenous students to assimilate to white culture. Covered with her own hybrid vocabulary of designs inspired by those found in Native arts, Adams’s ceramic basketballs bear witness to these conflicting associations.

    © Gina Adams, photo by Aaron Paden, courtesy of the artist and Accola Griefen Fine Art, Brooklyn

  • Daniel Arsham
    United States, born 1980
    Rose Quartz Eroded Basketball Rack, 2019
    Pink selenite, rose quartz, hydrostone, and powder-coated steel stand
    42 x 40 ½ x 22 ¾ in.
    Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin, New York


    Daniel Arsham creates imagined relics of our present. Sports equipment is a frequent find among these artifacts, especially basketballs. We associate the game with teams and brands, competition and success. In addition, many of us have tactile memories of playing the game. To see these balls in crystallized, fractured form disrupts their meaning. Rather than playthings, they resemble specimens. Arsham seems to ask: What will become of today’s famed basketball stars and sporting brands? Will the game be as popular in the future as now? Which aspects of our culture will fade and which will endure?

    © Daniel Arsham, photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli, photo courtesy of the artist and Perrotin, New York

  • Bill Bamberger
    United States, born 1956
    Farm Home by Cotton Field, Plymouth, North Carolina, 2004
    Color inkjet print
    19 5/16 x 28 ⅞ in.
    Courtesy of the artist 


    Bill Bamberger photographs outdoor basketball hoops around the world. His pictures underscore the popularity of a game that is relatively simple in its structure. One needs only a ball and a hoop to play. The hoop may or may not have a net or a backboard. It might be suspended above painted asphalt or a bare patch of ground. Bamberger’s images of hoops don’t depict people, but they evoke the players who have used them. Collectively, the images highlight the universality of a game that is played by rich and poor, formally and informally, in countless places.

    © Bill Bamberger

  • Kendell Carter with photographer Dawn Altier
    United States, born 1970; United States, born 1978
    Meditation on Team (Waves for Scottie), 2017
    Color Duratran photograph and lightbox
    38 x 48 x 5 in.
    Courtesy of the artists and Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Los Angeles


    Overlooking the sea, Kendell Carter sits with his head bowed, hands on his knees. The pose is meditative, and the scene recalls advertisements for retreats or wellness centers. Unexpected, however, is the basketball jersey that he wears—clothing associated with fast-paced play on an indoor court, with bright lights, and chaotic noise. In the contrast between the pictured tranquility and the imagined competition lies the tension that interests Carter. Describing this image, he notes, “It’s an alternative to the idea of the physically heroic male athlete” whose success rests in physical strength and individual dominance.

    © Kendell Carter and Dawn Altier, photo courtesy of the artists

  • André Leon Gray
    United States, born 1969
    Black Magic (It's Fantastic), 2005
    Acrylic, rhinestones, basketball, braided synthetic hair, street sweeper brush, shoelaces, headband, miniature clay pots, wood, and cowrie shells on wood ironing board
    67 x 31 x 9 ½ in.
    North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh. Purchased with funds from the Friends of African and African American Art, and with additional funds provided by North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company


    Using discarded objects, André Leon Gray crafts artworks that speak to spirituality, philosophy, and black culture. In this mask-like sculpture, he comments on the desires for power and achievement that are a part of competitive sports. The mask’s head is crowned with a basketball framed by a street sweeper’s brush.Beneath it, rhinestones form a stylized basketball, its grip lines tipped like compass arrows suggesting movement, perhaps the quest for success. That design is inspired by drawings used in Haitian Vodou ceremonies to invoke spirits. On the mask’s headband hovers one of basketball’s most celebrated “spirits,” Michael Jordan.

    © André Leon Gray, photo courtesy of the artist and the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

  • David Hammons
    United States, born 1943
    Money Tree, 1992
    Sepia print
    16 ⅛ x 10 ⅞ in.
    Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Gift of Blake Byrne, 2017.4.7


    David Hammons uses humble materials and sharp wit to create artworks that speak to black experiences. He has long been inspired by makeshift basketball hoops found in black communities. When he created this image of a found hoop for a magazine, he added the caption: “Ready made magic. A basketball hoop fashioned from the rim of a bicycle tire, embedded in a living tree in a Charleston backyard, testifies to the ingenuity of its anonymous maker.” That laudable description is countered by his sarcastic title, Money Tree—an allusion to fabled riches that the construction seems unlikely to yield.

    © David Hammons, photo courtesy of the Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina


  • Jeff Koons
    United States, born 1955
    One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Silver Series), 1985
    Glass, steel, sodium chloride reagent, distilled water, and basketball
    64 ¾ x 30 ¾ x 13 ¼ in.
    Art Bridges, Bentonville, Arkansas


    This deceptively simple sculpture is full of complexities. The ball hovers thanks to an exacting balance of saltwater. At once it evokes a scientific specimen, the sun in the sky, and a new object not yet taken from its package. Koons specifies the basketball’s brand, Spalding, and its product line, the Dr. J Silver Series—named for the famous Philadelphia 76ers player Julius Erving who is famed for his dunk shot. Dr. J’s name brings another layer of associations, as the suspended ball recalls the moments of anticipation as a player sails through the air to make a shot.

    © Jeff Koons, photo courtesy of Art Bridges, Bentonville, Arkansas


  • Suzanne McClelland
    United States, born 1959
    Well Hung, 2004
    WNBA jerseys, silk, plastic pearls, sequins, ribbon, fake fur, feather trim, rope, and WNBA duffle bag
    Dimensions variable, approximately 8 x 12 ft.
    Courtesy of the artist and Team Gallery, New York


    By 2004, less than a decade old, the Women’s National Basketball Association had expanded from its original eight teams to thirteen, and more than ten million fans had attended its games. Despite this success, when Suzanne McClelland went looking for WNBA team jerseys at the NBA store on New York’s Fifth Avenue, she recalls, “The women’s jerseys were relegated to one messy circular display rack near the bathrooms in the basement . . . greatly reduced in price.” In Well Hung, with its sly, double-entendre title, she gives the garments a far more triumphant display.

    © Suzanne McClelland, photo courtesy of the artist


  • Esmaa Mohamoud
    Canada, born 1992
    One of the Boys (Yellow Back), 2018
    Color inkjet print
    60 x 40 in.
    Courtesy of the artist and and Georgia Scherman Projects, Toronto


    Esmaa Mohamoud grew up as the only daughter in a family of five children. She loved playing basketball with her brothers, but her mother insisted that she wear dresses. So, Mohamoud would top them with a basketball jersey. In her photographs, she probes gender stereotypes by posing men and women in basketball jerseys that have been transformed into ball gowns. Here, the model is shot from behind with her head bowed such that her identity remains anonymous. In contrast to the energy associated with the game, she registers stillness, one that can be read as defiant or contemplative.

    © Esmaa Mohamoud


  • Lorna Simpson
    United States, born 1960
    Poets, 2013
    19 framed black-and-white photographs with acrylic and oil stick; 19 aluminum boxes with acrylic
    Dimensions variable
    Courtesy of the artist and and Hauser & Wirth


    On the left of Lorna Simpson’s Poets, floating black dots on silver rectangles suggest a hidden logic or code. On the right, one finds they correspond to the locations of basketballs held by players in historic newspaper photographs.Simpson emphasized the photographs’ original crop marks, overlaying editorial notations with acrylic and oil stick, to remind us that images—like history—are always the result of choices and context. With some hung upright and others turned sideways, the improvisational placements underscore the fast pace of the game’s players, the quick mark-making of the editors, and the topsy-turvy nature of history.

    © Lorna Simpson, photo courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth


  • Victor Solomon
    United States, born 1981
    Church, 2019
    Stained glass, 24k-gold-plated hand-wrought steel, acrylic, and crystals
    10 x 4 x 4 ft.
    Courtesy of the artist


    Victor Solomon creates basketball hoops inspired by the décor of palaces and cathedrals. Recalling his youth as a mixed-race kid in East Boston, he remembers that it was on his neighborhood basketball courts that racial and ethnic distinctions disappeared. While celebrating that inclusivity, his sculptures also acknowledge economic divides between the many who aspire to basketball stardom and the few who achieve it. And, they underscore the precariousness of fame: while designed to precisely mimic actual backboards and hoops, their fragile beauty renders the munable to withstand the shock of a ball hitting them.

    © Victor Solomon, photo by Geordy Pearson, courtesy of the artist


  • Hank Willis Thomas
    United States, born 1976
    Branded Head, 2003
    Lambda photograph
    30 x 20 in.
    Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York


    Artist Hank Willis Thomas considers the legacies of branding across time. He is particularly concerned with the commodification of black bodies, noting,“For so many African American men...the idea of ascending is chained to ascending through sports and entertainment.” Such ideas take poignant form in his photograph of a black man in profile. Cropped so that the features of his face are missing, the figure becomes anonymous. Marked only by the Nike swoosh on the side of his head, he is transformed from an individual to a thing, no longer a subject but an object.

    © Hank Willis Thomas, photo courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York



  • UNCG Men's basketball team visits To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art (February 6, 2020), Weatherspoon Art Museum, photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020.





  • To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020.





  • To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art Opening (January 31, 2020), Weatherspoon Art Museum, photography by Carolyn de Berry, 2020.





  • To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020.





  • To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020.





  • To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020.





  • To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020.





  • To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, installation photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020.





  • To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art Opening (January 31, 2020), Weatherspoon Art Museum, photography by Carolyn de Berry, 2020.





  • UNCG Men's basketball team visits To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art (February 6, 2020), Weatherspoon Art Museum, photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020.





  • UNCG Men's basketball team visits To the Hoop | Basketball and Contemporary Art (February 6, 2020), Weatherspoon Art Museum, photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, 2020.




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Weatherspoon Art Museum
UNC Greensboro
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Greensboro, NC 27402
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