Gary Simmons

Blue Field Explosions (2009)

Urethane, pigment and oil stick on wall
Approximately 22 feet by 70 feet

Located in NE Monumental Staircase

On any given Sunday, everything can change in a split-second. That is why big plays, explosive hits even questionable calls are so important to sports: with them, momentum shifts, games turn, and winners rise above losers.

Gary Simmons’ gigantic wall drawing captures the energy of these decisive moments. Rather than depicting a specific event and limiting his art to illustrating the past, Simmons brings the sudden, ear-splitting, earth-shattering, outcome-altering explosiveness of game highlights into the present, where viewers are called on to fill in the blanks by using their imaginations. Part of the power of Blue Field Explosions (2009) is that it reawakens our capacity to anticipate, to dream, and to hope.

Simmons emerged as an artist in the early 1990s with his “Erasure Drawings,” a series of chalk drawings on blackboards. An African-American, he began many of these works by accurately outlining 1930s cartoon characters that often embodied racial stereotypes. Simmons then used his bare hands, arms, and shoulders to smudge, smear, and all but erase the white-onblack images. What resulted were ghostly, gray traces of the original characters and the artist’s unsuccessful yet vigorous even violent attempt to obliterate them.

This double-edged thrust continues in the double-barreled format of Blue Field Explosions. All of Simmons’ handmade drawings are accessible and potent. They build on the comic strip-inspired Pop Art of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein by making a place for the artist’s touch in a world of mass-produced imagery. For Simmons, that is both subtle and tough, elegant and explosive.

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