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Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition examines the sport of Soccer
Chris Beas, Sir Bobby, 2007. Acrylic on canvas. 24 x 25 3/8 in. Courtesy of the artist and Martha Otero Gallery. ©Chris Beas.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents Fútbol: The Beautiful Game, an exhibition examining the sport of fútbol, or soccer, as it is known in the United States. Featuring approximately 50 works by nearly 30 artists on the subject of fútbol—often referred to as “the beautiful game”—the exhibition looks at issues of nationalism, identity, globalism, and mass spectacle as well as the shared human experience between spectators from a multitude of cultures. In anticipation of the 2014 World Cup that takes place in Brazil this summer, LACMA’s exhibition considers the sport through video, photography, painting, sculpture, and large-scale installation.

"A globally beloved sport celebrated in the context of a museum: what a great opportunity to explore the international scope of soccer through the lens of art," said Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of LACMA. "Fútbol should excite all, especially as it coincides with the World Cup in Brazil in summer 2014."

"When people watch a game, they feel inspired by the spirit of the team, the fans, and the sense of community," remarked Franklin Sirmans, Terri and Michael Smooke Curator and department head of contemporary art at LACMA, "We, the fans, create the spirit of the team via our rituals. Witnessing a game is one of the few occasions during which a collective sense of enthusiasm is still possible. This exhibition explores that energy."

As the only city to boast two Major League Soccer teams and as the seat of growth in American soccer, Los Angeles is the perfect place in which to explore the dynamics of the sport through art.

Two room-sized video installations anchor Fútbol: The Beautiful Game. The first, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait by the artists Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon, provides an intimate portrait of Zinedine Zidane—one of the greatest soccer players in the history of the sport—during the course of a single match. Meanwhile, Stephen Dean’s Volta, set to samba music, directs its gaze at stadium crowds and draws attention to both the pandemonium and organized ritual of mass audiences.

Other works by artists including Robin Rhode, Kehinde Wiley, Petra Cortright, Andy Warhol, Mark Bradford, Mary Ellen Carroll, Hassan Hajjaj, and Andreas Gursky, among others, provide a sense of the possibilities of the sport as a universal conversation piece. With artists hailing from as far afield as Morocco, Germany, Mexico, and South Africa—in addition to several Los Angeles–based artists—the geographic range represented in Fútbol: The Beautiful Game reflects the global reach of the sport.

Gustavo Artigas’s The Rules of the Game examines the ways in which communities that play different sports (basketball, soccer, and football) perceive one another, while Miguel Calderón’s video Mexico vs. Brasil dramatically unfolds during an unlikely victory for Mexico. Chris Beas harkens back to classical modes of presentation in his paintings: his athletic figures are depicted in a celebratory, almost mythic light. Meanwhile, the athletes featured in Generic Art Solutions’ works are almost caricatures caught in moments of extreme dramatization.

In collaboration with LACMA, a new edition of prints has been commissioned by Self Help Graphics under the direction of executive director, Evonne Gallardo. The new prints by Carolyn Castano, Nery Gabriel Lemus, Ana Serrano, Dewey Tafoya, Ami Motevelli and Mario Ybarra, Jr. address varied aspects of the game—from a commemoration for the Colombian soccer player Andres Escobar who was shot and killed shortly after the 1994 World Cup, seemingly for his mistaken own goal, to references to the Olmec culture of the first major civilization in Mexico.

As a nod to the imminent World Cup, the exhibition’s design alludes to the Brazilian flag with graphic symbolism as it evokes the environs of the sport—sun, sky, and grass— through a vibrant yellow, blue, and green.

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