Eye on the Ball
The spectacle surrounding the Super Bowl and big-league sports in general easily pulls a wandering attention span away from the on-field drama and intensity.
Whether at the stadium or on the couch, the experience is saturated with distraction: listen to this, look at that, buy this.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons David Rathman’s high school football paintings look so strange and unique. Set in rural Montana, the small-squad football scenes strip the sport of the sideshow.
What’s left is a focused portrait of the game at its purest.
“Home and Away,” which runs through March 10 at the Weinstein Gallery, includes more than 15 new watercolor and ink paintings by the Minneapolis artist.
Most of the paintings are based on photographs Rathman took of six- and eight-man games in small Montana towns near his boyhood home.
Where we’re used to seeing truckloads of advertisements, the sidelines give way to big November skies. Hills shoot up beyond a flat line horizon dotted with the occasional pick-up truck.
The artist says personal memories were one thing that drew him to the project, but also what interested him was that the high school players “are men, but they still show the boy.” The body types include the sturdy, the stocky and the substitutes. Gear in the paintings include uniforms, helmets, shoulder pads and gloves.
Devoid of big stadiums and hype, they describe boys playing the game for the love of the sport.
Rathman lives and works in Minneapolis. “Home and Away” is his first show in the city since “Dialogues” at the Walker Art Center in 2002. That show revolved around dark, humorous paintings derived from classic Old Western films.
His last project was “Somebody’s Got to Go,” a look at the grit and melodrama in the boxing ring.
Rathman’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions, including at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, Galerie Weiland in Berlin and the Clementine Gallery, also in New York.
His work is also in permanent collections at the Walker Art Center, the Art Institute of Chicago, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
“Home and Away” runs through March 10 at the Weinstein Gallery, 908 W. 46th St. 822-1722. www.weinstein-gallery.com.