Baseball is a sport. It's also an art. And it's a cultural institution. All this keeps fans hanging on each year for 162 regular season games, two rounds of playoffs, and a World Series. Giants fans know this all too well -- they had to wait 52 years before winning a series in San Francisco. "The Art of Baseball," an exhibit that opens this weekend at George Krevsky Gallery, goes far beyond an opportunistic attempt at capitalizing on the Giants' recent success to show not only the hometown nine but also parts of a game that in many ways defines American society.
The exhibit depicts numerous facets of the game -- the heroism and precision, the history and cultural significance, the dirty physicality, the larger-than-life aspect that professional sports can take on -- while also exposing some not-so-pretty aspects such as racial divisions and legendary players who had extremely troubled personal lives. It does so through various media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, and found-object assembly. As baseball exhibits go, this is among the best we've seen.
In an eponymous portrait, Babe Ruth looks melancholy and pensive in Eric Grbich's sepia-tone mixed-media work that includes dripping spray paint. Roberto Clemente -- the Puerto Rican who played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates and died while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Central America -- looks at us knowingly and contemplatively in Arthur K. Miller's portrait.
Of course there's also glory. Legendary (New York) Giant Willie Mays is shown making his famous catch in the 1954 World Series in a painting by Darryl Shelton called Willie Mays: A Catch Remembered. Chris Donnelly sculpts Oakland A Rickey Henderson (who wore No. 24, the same as Mays) holding up his record-breaking stolen base in Rickey's Big Day. Painter Christopher M. Olsen mixes the literal and the figurative in the highly stylized and detailed Play at Second.
The exhibit reaches the modern day in Jon Francis' It's Tim Time, where we look over the shoulder of a Giants fan watching pitcher Tim Lincecum's windup through a smartphone. Painter Robert Marosi Bustamente renders the same pitcher in two parts of his windup and delivery, backed in a patchwork of colors and headlines (including "champs!" and "believe it!") in Lincecum Stride.
For those of you who knew nothing of the Giants -- or baseball -- before October 2010, here's your chance to learn a lot of history through some major league artwork.
Click through for some more works as well as details on the exhibit.