Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball

We Did It! / 2013, Oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches
By Jon Francis

Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball is a visual and artistic metaphor of the American pastime that reminds us that baseball is rich in art and literature.

Last Saturday, I visited the Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball exhibition at the George Krevsky Gallery of American Art, located at 77 Geary Street near Union Square in San Francisco. Seeing this year's exhibit brought back fond memories of the 2012 San Francisco Giants World Series championship as depicted through a painting of Sergio Romo, shown moments after striking out Miguel Cabrera to clinch the decisive victory, while his battery mate Buster Posey races to the mound to join Romo in celebration.

This year's 16th annual exhibition of baseball art includes iconic images of Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays, all which reinforced for me on this April afternoon why baseball matters ~ why it has an important purpose in my life.

Also, there's Oakland A's reliever Rollie Fingers illustrated in his prime, a collage of the outfield wall at Brooklyn's old Ebbets Field featuring the advertisement "Hit Sign, Win Suit" ~ even a gelatin silver photograph of Fidel Castro swinging a baseball bat.

Each work of art from the more than 40 artists in this year's exhibition, created through the use of a variety of mixed media ~ graphite on paper, oil on paper, oil on canvas, gelatin silver photograph, acrylic and marker on canvas board, hand-cut paper collage, and pastel on paper ~ cements our lasting memories of the game we've loved since we were children.

And, there's also a featured literary component, "Baseball Canto," by the American Beat poet and San Francisco resident Lawrence Ferlinghetti:

Watching baseball, sitting in the sun,
eating popcorn, reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through
the Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders.
When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everyone stands up for the National Anthem
with some Irish tenor's voice piped over the loudspeakers,
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops
in their black suits and little black caps, pressed over their hearts
standing straight and still
like at some funeral of a blarney bartender, and all facing East
as if expecting  some Great White Hope
or the Founding Fathers, to appear on the horizon
like 1066 or 1776 or all that.

But Willie Mays appears instead,
in the bottom of the first,
and a roar goes up, as he clouts the first one into the sun
and takes off, like a footrunner from Thebes.
The ball is lost in the sun and maidens wail after him
but he keeps running, through the Anglo-Saxon epic.
And Tito Fuentes comes up, looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointed shoes.
And the rightfield bleachers go mad
with Chicanos & blacks & Brooklyn beer drinkers
"Sweet Tito! Sock it to heem, Sweet Tito!"
And Sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don't come back at all
and flees around the bases
like he's escaping from the United Fruit Company
as the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And Sweet Tito beats it out, like he's beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.
And Juan Marichal comes up,
and the Chicano bleachers go loco again,
as Juan belts the first ball, out of sight,
and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third,
and keeps going, and hits pay-dirt
to the roars of the grungy populace.
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again,
to save the situation.

But it don't stop nobody this time,
in their revolution round the loaded white bases,
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics,
in the Territorio Libre of Baseball.

A special treat of this year's show is A Baseball Salon: Memories of the Game, an evening of baseball poetry and literature readings, music and short film that will be hosted by the gallery on May 2.

"Baseball has a new purpose in our lives," writes Dr. Marshall Ledger, a magazine editor, in the gallery notes for Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball. "We have discovered the sport in the visual arts and in literature, where artists and writers use it as theme or metaphor to draw us into their special, and often unexpectedly rich, creative worlds."

(Out of the Park: The Art of Baseball continues through May 25. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)

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