Scrimmage features 78 artworks, dating from the 1850s to 2014, that take as their subject various aspects of the game of football. Some works, such as Frederic Remington’s Touchdown, Yale vs. Princeton, are straightforward depictions of the early days of the sport, while others offer more ambiguous commentaries on football’s meaning in the larger society. For instance, Mark Newport’s Heroes Past, questions the role of masculinity in the sport by hand beading football cards; combining masculine icons with a traditionally “feminine” medium, while Shaun Leonardo’s Bull in the Ring, also explores male identity by revealing the violence of the game. Geoff Winningham’s Super Bowl (Houston) from 1972 turns from the field to the stands, showing a row of Vikings fans in their horned helmets cheering on their team, with the Goodyear blimp floating above them.
Rather than presenting a history of the sport, Scrimmage raises questions about sports, art, and their roles in our history and culture, revealing attitudes and transitions in American life over the past 150 years. Works by artists such as Winslow Homer and J.C. Leyendecker illustrate the concept of the “strenuous life” championed by President Teddy Roosevelt, while works by Andy Warhol and Red Grooms embody the cult of the celebrity athlete that is so prominent today. Other artists address issues of class, ethnicity, gender and violence as they relate to the sport of football.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website