Art meets football in new exhibit at Jordan Schnitzer museum

Image of the painting 'Sunday Service' by Warrington Colescott

“Scrimmage: Football in American Art from the Civil War to the Present,” an exhibition of art work by 53 artists with subject matter that examines the quintessentially American sport of football, opens at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art this summer. 

On view from July 30 to Dec. 31, the exhibition opens with a free kickoff party Friday, July 29, from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Scrimmage” gathers original works of art for the first comprehensive survey of work by prominent American artists who have pictured football and its public culture. The exhibition ranges in time period from an 1857 wood engraving by Winslow Homer to recent works by contemporary artists Monique Crine, Shaun Leonardo, Catherine Opie and William Wylie.

In addition to these artists, others represented in the exhibition include Ernie Barnes, George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Harold Edgerton, Charles Dana Gibson, Laura Gilpin, Red Grooms, Lewis Hine, Eadweard Muybridge, Tod Papageorge, Robert Rauschenberg, Frederic Remington, Norman Rockwell, Diego Romero and Andy Warhol.

Organized by the UO art museum and the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art (formerly University Art Museum) at Colorado State University, “Scrimmage” was co-curated by Danielle Knapp, McCosh Associate Curator at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and Linny Frickman, director of the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art.

The exhibition developed as the curators asked “What can images of football reveal about American culture?” The exhibition is not meant to present a history of football — the development of rules and gradual changes in play, the history of teams or players — instead, it offers a window into themes central to American life, both past and current. Depictions of the American sport of football can be read as a cultural narrative that reflects attitudes and transitions in the country’s history.

“It is amazing to see how artists have been responding to football and interpreting its prominent role in American life since the 19th century,” Knapp said. “For most of the artists in this exhibition, their fame and recognition came for a much more broad body of work, of which football imagery may have been one small part. … The contemporary works on view reinforce the fact that artists have interesting and relevant observations on the sport — and pose new questions for our audience to consider.”

An exhibition catalog accompanies “Scrimmage” and will be available for purchase in the museum store. The catalog was made possible by funds from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and the Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation.

The exhibition is supported by the FUNd Endowment at Colorado State University; the Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Fund; city of Fort Collins Fort Fund and Cultural Resources Board; RBC Wealth Management; the Coeta and Donald Barker Changing Exhibitions Endowment; the Oregon Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts; the University of Oregon Office of Advancement; and art museum members.