Artist Bhakti Baxter on Art and Sport

Detail of Imploded Ball Barf (Black + Red), 2011.
Detail of Imploded Ball Barf (Black + Red), 2011.

PAMM's recently opened exhibition "The World's Game: Fútbol and Contemporary Art" explores the ties between the art world and the soccer world. Miami-based artist Bhakti Baxter brings Cultured into his world to share his ties to the sport and how it plays into his works for the show.

What is the significance of using found objects in your works for the exhibition? Can you elaborate on what the process was for creating the Imploded Ball Barf works? Around the time that these works came to be, I had moved from a shared studio with friends in the Design District to a vast warehouse by myself that was just alongside the train tracks on 72 Street and North Miami Avenue in Little Haiti. When I moved in, the space was completely empty, so things that I would find along the train tracks would make their way into the studio. Treating found objects as shapes and elements of weight density and texture, material specificity, playing with combinations of the selected found objects. Playing! That was the important part. The work had to be fun to make.

Installation view of Bhakti Baxter's Imploded Ball Barf works.

Fútbol has a reputation for being a highly emotional sport. In what ways do you represent that in your work? Do you have a personal connection to fútbol? My father was a professional soccer player and later became a professional soccer coach. He traveled to Italy in 1990 as a photographer and literary journalist for a sports magazine. The photos were really good. I remember some shots he captured of Diego Maradona hitting on a super model and they were priceless. Soccer is ever present in the home of Argentinians. Screaming!!! Wild guttural screaming. Simultaneous emotional outbursts erupting from my dad and his friends. But let me be clear, when I made these I was not thinking about fútbol in any way. It was about tearing the old ball open, flipping it inside out (implosion), filling it with concrete, paint, resin, and letting it all meld together. I was thinking of Bucky Domes and the beauty of a sphere. The weight of stars. The scene in the movie Aliens where the eggs start to hatch. Things were being born and I think this body of work led to the concrete sculptures in the years that followed.

Detail of Imploded Ball Barf (Green and Blue Beneath Black and White), 2010-2015.

What kind of relationship or parallels do you see between art and fútbol? Sports and art are often compared to one another. This relationship is funny because in a way sports and art are equally ridiculous. People going nuts over a team vs. another and all because a sphere has to find a way into an arch, circle, hole, etc. Just like some color and lines arranged in a "special" way by a certain someone can one day fetch millions at auction. It’s hilarious and yet totally legit. It’s abstraction and chaos and poetry, but at the same time it’s cathartic fulfillment through competitive forces that have to be appeased. There is the whole super fit athlete that’s out there in her prime pushing the body to its limit and the comparison to the artist with chops who is honing her practice in order to stand up against the weight of accomplished art history. I think it’s funny but some think its war. My dad once told me that if aliens come to the earth the only thing they would take with them is fútbol.

Detail of Imploded Ball Barf (Deco Drawer), 2011.

Your practice seems to be constantly evolving. How do these pieces fit within your body of work? My work has always dealt with geometry in some way. The geodesic construction of a soccer ball has several references from microscopic molecules to architectural dwellings (concrete). The pooling of paint on the pedestals are reminiscent of earlier ink drawings and the color schemes tend to reoccur as well. However, these works will always be a product of the studio I had in Little Haiti along the train tracks. The qualities of the work at that time were a direct result of my immediate environment. It was flipping the art process from idea to object by starting with the found object that was chosen to join the rest of the raw material in the studio. It was fun to work that way for a while.

All photos courtesy of PAMM and World Red Eye.