Bread City Basketball

James Worthy by Jonas Woods
May 7, 2012, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Art, Basketball, Los Angeles Lakers | Tags: , ,

From artist Jonas Woods’ solo show at L.A.’s David Kordansky Gallery. For everyone on the left coast, Woods’ show closes on this Saturday, May 12th.

James Worthy Painting

Jeff Koons’ Basketball Poster Switch-Up

The Costacos Brothers’ awesome 1980s sports posters were hung on bedroom walls across the country with scotch tape and awe. And in 1985, they were also hung in a gallery by Jeff Koons, who went on to sell them for hundreds of thousands of dollars as his own work.

Call it a hostile art takeover. How else could Koons manage to appropriate six of the Costacos’ well-known basketball posters for Equilibrium, his first solo show? It was easy. He went to Nike, bought the rights for an undisclosed amount, and started printing the certificates of authenticity.

Curators can spin Koons’ conceptual power move this way and that. But here’s the real deal, straight from his 1992 Taschen book: “It’s about artists using art for social mobility…white middle-class kids have been using art the same way that other ethnic groups have been using basketball — for social mobility.”

In contemporary art and basketball, big personalities rule. Koons saw something of himself in the Costacos Brothers’ one-shot athlete mythologies. He indulged this superstar artist fantasy by finding a way to justify flipping the posters as his own product.

From the perspective of today’s age of 24/7 internet image curation, where support for authorship is zilch, the whole story doesn’t seem that shocking. The idea of cool images being re-contextualized is familiar to anyone who knows understands what “re-blog” means. But how many re-blogs have you heard of netting $150,000 at Christies?

Tracking down the Equilibrium posters on the web is difficult, these days. After all, creating scarcity is a key element of how Koons transformed them into expensive art objects. So like bedroom sunlight faded so many Costacos posters over the years, every blog hit devalues Koons’ work a tiny bit more. Enjoy.

Jeff Koons Basketball Poster

Jeff Koons Secretary of Defense

Mark Cuban vs. Italo Calvino
April 9, 2012, 2:30 pm
Filed under: Art, Basketball, Bread City | Tags: , , ,

Noise vs. Lightness. Death to assisted resonance!


The image of a Klansman playing basketball popped into George “Ewok” Thompson’s head fully-formed, like an image in a dream.

What emerged was a series of paintings titled Revisionist History. Thompson (who came up as a graffiti artist) takes the race issues underlying professional basketball, and blows them up huge with confrontational irony.

Earlier this month, Bryant Gumbel called the lockout as he saw it, claiming that commissioner David Stern “has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys.” It’s weird that people find this sort of commentary shocking, when racism is the white noise underlying basketball at every level. George Thompson takes the sentiment, and runs it through a science fiction ringer.

The classical execution of these paintings only adds to their surreality. Whether it’s a portrait of a masked Klansman in the triple-threat position, or posing behind a biblical sky, the striking images create a thought-provoking alternate reality.

George "Ewok" Thompson



I once sat next to Ackley at this basketball game. We had a terrific guy on the team, Howie Coyle, that could sink them from the middle of the floor, without even touching the backboard or anything. Ackley kept saying, the whole goddam game, that Coyle had a perfect build for basketball. God, how I hate that stuff.
– From Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Lebron James is one part Coyle, one part Caulfield. Haters are his phonies.

jd salinger, lebron james, basketball, literature

September 12, 2011, 1:17 am
Filed under: Art, Basketball, Bread City, Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks | Tags: , ,

Il Gallo T-Shirt design, 2010. It was made for Gallinari the Knick, but he’s #8 in Denver so the shirt works if you’re a Nugs fan. I’m still in denial about the Carmelo trade.

Danilo Gallinari Nickname Shirt


August 29, 2011, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Art, Bread City, History | Tags: , , , ,

While he [Matt Groening] is “flattered” by the street response to “The Simpsons,” “I must say I have mixed feelings. You have to have mixed feelings when you’re getting ripped off,” Groening says.
– The Washington Post, 6/28/90

It was more than just a bootleg. Combining hip hop culture references with hand-drawn illustrations, black Bart Simpson t-shirts were an underground phenomenon in the late 80s and early 90s. A cultural meme before the internet even existed.

Not only did the shirts look cool, but they carried a whiff of black market cache. It was the opposite of rocking a label. Black Bart didn’t mean that you had money, but he meant you were in-the-know.

The shirts were hawked in concert parking lots, hung in boardwalk tourist traps, laid out on folding tables in the Fulton Mall, and crowded into Chinatown’s fake-rolex shops. They were sold in the small, unregulated economies between the cracks of the American retail landscape. There was no headquarters to shut down. The shirts were produced and distributed through a network of independent hustlers and small fries operating concurrently.

Matt Groening couldn’t stop it. 20th Century Fox couldn’t stop it. Black Bart shirts stopped because they belonged to hip hop subculture. When they entered the mainstream, their cred burned up in the light and production got big enough to shut down.

This is my undisputed Shangri-La of bootleg Bart shirts. The MC Hammer/Jordan Flight mash-up and the composition is so fresh. Can’t touch this!