With 'Sports Show,' MIA throws a change-up

By Mason Riddle
Star Tribune

Little_Sports coverArt and sports are not such strange bedfellows. In fact, as "The Sports Show" proves, they sleep together rather nicely.

Opening Sunday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, this expansive exhibition showcases images of sports moments great and small, while investigating the role of the camera and media in transforming sports from a Sunday afternoon activity into a daily, worldwide phenomenon.

"The power of the sports image is not just its singular presence, but that it can be distributed globally and across time," said the show's organizer, David Little, curator of photography and new media at the museum, and a seasoned sports aficionado. "Images are absolutely vital to our understanding of sports today. The camera is the ideal partner."

One has only to think of the difference in tempo and reach between the first documented Olympiad in 776 B.C. and the 2012 Super Bowl to realize the camera lens is a complicit player in sports. After all, the defining play of the Giants-Patriots contest was decided by video.

"The Sports Show" reaches beyond the competition, however, to reflect on the culture at large. The exhibit features more than 100 images, going back to an 1883 shot by Thomas Eakins of naked youths at a swimming hole, a study for one of the artist's famous paintings.

Many of photography's big names are here: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Stieglitz, Jacques Henri Lartigue and Diane Arbus, to name a few. But Frank Lloyd Wright? Yes, there's an image he took of a girls' gym class in 1900. Stanley Kubrick of "2001: A Space Odyssey" fame? Yes, as a young photojournalist, he shot boxer Rocky Graziano for a magazine spread.

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