Sunday, September 7, 2008
Lately, I've been obsessed with drawing and painting images of boxers. The whole idea of sports (specifically, contact sports) is very interesting to me. The concept of humans being brought into close, physical competition, sparks my imagination. It makes me think about how closely this relates to the way we treat animals... how we'll have cock fights and dog fights, horse and dog races. Or on an even more basic level, the way animals interact in the wild. Birds and beasts fight for everything from life and limb, to food and social standing. This draws me directly to that relationship in sports, because it's about as simple as you can get... destroy the other guy before they destroy you.
Now, I realize that's a very bare-bones breakdown of the way sports work. When you take the time to analyze them, boxing, football, sprinting, etc... they can be considered a science, or even an art. But that's not what I'm focusing on in these new boxer pieces. I'm going for the gut, visually... the visceral edge of it. I'm expressing the brutality of it in the gruesome features and physiques of the fighters. In some of the other sketches I've been cooking up, I touch on the sexual side of it... the pairing of powerful athletes (modern gladiators, if you will) with the finest mates. I want to explore the cheering mob of a crowd, and get into the primal bloodlust that organized fighting brings out of fans and everyday viewers.
The process in these boxing works is a little surprising for me, compared to my previous fine art stuff. It's mainly because the images are coming to me before the ideas behind them. One day, last weekend, I was reading The Muhammad Ali Reader (a great collection of journalists writing about Ali, From George Plimpton to Hunter Thompson... a really awesome read), and suddenly I couldn't stop imagining paintings of boxers. I'd had that sort of excitement a couple years ago, when I first started learning more about the life of Cassius Clay, saw a great documentary on Jack Johnson, and read the autobiography of Malcolm X. But this most recent inspiration-zap was so intense. I couldn't even sit still. I just HAD to start putting these fighters and their trainers, their girlfriends and fans all down on paper.
And in the past week, as I've been making the art, I've been deconstructing the thinking behind it. Kinda like how early scientists took apart cadavers to figure out the inner workings of the human body. And I have to tell you, it's probably the most exciting time I've had in my work for months.
I'm going to keep birthing these pieces from my brain to the page. I'll definitely be showing these guys at 111 Minna in downtown SF, at the end of this month. I just started a 34" x 40" oil painting of two boxers approaching each other in the ring, as the crowd spurs them on. So that piece might go in the show, too. I really can't say enough, though, just how wonderful it feels to be making this stuff.
Hope the weekend's been good to ya'll.