Curated by Oliver Morris-Jones, hosted by Von Goetz Art
"You were the best. You fought a smart fight, kid.” – Dempsey to Tunney, 1927.
Von Goetz Art is pleased to announce its inaugural group exhibition 'The Long Count'
Curated by Oliver Morris Jones and showing at 45 Hays Mews, Mayfair, London, it will bring together seven international artists whose practices engage with dialogues surrounding modern sports culture.
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.