"If you build it, they will come" seems to be the inspiration for two new sports-themed exhibitions.
The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook presents "Picturing America's Pastime," a collection of iconic photographs on loan from the Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and "Home Fields," a nostalgic look at the area's ballparks and stadiums, through Oct. 15. If the Golden Gloves are more your thing rather than baseball gloves, visit The Church in Sag Harbor and check out its show "Strike Fast, Dance Lightly: Artists on Boxing," through Sept. 3. Both venues have special talks and programs planned, so check their websites and get ready to rumble.
HAVING A FIELD DAY
"I'm a huge fan" of America's favorite pastime said Joshua Ruff, Long Island Museum co-executive director and organizer of the baseball exhibitions, which couldn’t be more timely. Baseball “is really top of mind for a lot of people as they come visit us in the summer. It's what's going on in their world," he added.
More than 50 photographs capture the action in "Picturing America's Pastime," which features images of favorite stars and frantic fans. Even Homer the beagle, the Mets' once beloved mascot, gets a close-up. The show considers the game through an unusual lens — photography — and how the sport and the camera evolved side-by-side.
WHAT "Picturing America's Pastime" and "Home Fields"
WHEN | WHERE Through Oct. 15, 12-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, The Long Island Museum, 1200 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook
INFO $10, $7 seniors, $5 students, $3.50 persons with disabilities, free ages 5 and younger; 631-751-0066, longislandmuseum.org
WHAT "Strike Fast, Dance Lightly: Artists on Boxing"
WHEN | WHERE Through Sept. 3, 12-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday or by appointment, The Church, 48 Madison St., Sag Harbor
INFO Free; 631-919-5342, thechurchsagharbor.org
"Early photographers were there on the field with their weighty equipment and tripods, right close to home plate," said Ruff. Sometimes they got in the way, and sometimes, they captured magic, like Ty Cobb sliding into third base. "It's one of the most iconic photographs ever taken in baseball by Charles Conlon in 1910," he added. Visitor favorites include shots of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and ill-fated Lou Gehrig, just back from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, sharing a poignant moment with teammates.
"Home Fields" presents a lineup of memorabilia from Shea Stadium, Ebbets Field, The Polo Grounds, Citi Field, the Long Island Ducks and Yankee Stadium. Derek Jeter's bat is on view, along with a Mets' championship ring, jerseys, turnstiles, ticket stubs and even the Yankees’ home plate. It's all designed for fun and a sense of shared experience. "We don't all go to the opera," said Ruff, "but baseball captures everybody's hearts."
A KNOCKOUT EXHIBIT
The art of the sweet science comes out swinging in "Strike Fast, Dance Lightly: Artists on Boxing" at The Church, curated by co-founder Eric Fischl and chief curator Sara Cochran. "At the core of every work in the show is that it's connected to boxing," said Fischl, adding that each also uses the sport as a metaphor "for different kinds of struggles, different ways of seeking identity, or political justice, or spiritual quest." Or, even, as Cochran put it, "the rage of everyday life."
Get a ringside view of punching bags and boxing gloves in paintings and sculptures, and lots of images of fighters. Some are filled with whimsy, like Barry Flanagan's boxing bronze rabbit. Some sparkle, like Fab 5 Freddy's crystal-coated portrait of Jack Johnson. Others dance like butterflies as depicted in a series of 2023 watercolors by renowned cartoonist and former Shelter Island resident Jules Feiffer. Particularly moving is New Yorker photographer Platon's portrait of Muhammad Ali — older, soft-featured and vulnerable — reminding us that time visits even heroes. "We did want to make sure that the reality of boxing is also there," noted Cochran. "We didn't want to sugarcoat it."
"Broken Hallelujah," a wall-sized painting by Fischl, is a rare inclusion in a show he's curating. It's a self-portrait in the studio surrounded by work and tools, his knuckles wrapped in boxing tape. Like all the pieces in the show, it stands for something. "The struggle," he explained, "which is a life struggle of trying to understand, in all its fine detail, love, need, desire, attachment. It's a lifework trying to get it right. Somehow all of those things came together in the painting."
The show was developed in collaboration with New York's Flag Art Foundation, where a separately curated selection of boxing-themed works is on view. It's also The Church's first traveling show, scheduled to make a stop at Florida's Norton Museum of Art in 2024. Artists ranging from teens to nonagenarians deliver knockout pieces; inclusion is part of The Church's mission. "We're trying to break down all the barriers that have been constructed around the art world," said Fischl, "and bring people in touch with the energy, and the hopefulness, and the sincerity of the creative act itself."