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Review: Excellence in Art and Sport

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3 stars

The National Art Museum of Sport, located on the ground floor of the University Place Conference Center at IUPUI, makes no bones about the work it exhibits as being genre-based, that genre being sports.

And so, NAMOS' first attempt at an international juried show, Commitment to Excellence in Art and Sport, not only lists the number of works on view (50) but the number of sports represented (57), suggesting that viewers may be as interested in seeing renderings of their favorite pastimes and athletes as in how the artists use this subject matter as a point of departure for other explorations.

I'm a sports fan. I am also fascinated by fine art. But a visit to this show left me wondering about how many of the works included could speak to those unfamiliar with their respective sports. Too many of the works seem to rely on reservoirs of built-in nostalgia as a kind of illustrative short cut to meaning.

On the other hand, less popular sports, like paddle racing, seem to lend themselves more readily to purely aesthetic treatment. Among the highlights: Carol Ann Schrader's close-up watercolor of teenage swimmers lounging together, "Between Events," a compositional wonder of green and gold and flesh; the surreal metaphor of a skateboard made of glass by Scott Darlington; and marvelous photographs of a young boxer and a sandlot "ruffian" by Chris Bucher and Scott Fincher.

Any of these pieces and more might feel at home in any gallery of contemporary art. Through April 20; open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Free admission.

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