The power of prizefighting and photography

Arts: museums, literature

March 18, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Ever since Leni Riefenstahl's 1936 propaganda masterpiece Olympiad, photography and sports have been locked in a magical embrace of mutual admiration.

Camera images represent athletic bodies as heroic forms in space and depict athletic competitions as mythic, god-like encounters.

Meanwhile, the athlete's strength, endurance and agility elevate the camera's images to icons of physical beauty, power and grace.

In perhaps no other sport has photography's myth-making potential been exploited more effectively than in boxing.

Under the camera's gaze, the prizefighters become larger-than-life gladiator-heroes, willing warriors whose magnificently muscled bodies seem inured to pain or fatigue.

Ringside, the two-man show of boxing images by photographers Christopher Myers and J.M. Giordano at the Schiavone-Edward Contemporary Art Gallery in Highlandtown, is a contemporary heir to Olympiad's apotheosis of the athlete.

In Myers' crisp black-and-white images, the contenders' belligerent facial expressions, intense gazes and other indicators of strong individual character and personality are the main points of interest.

Shot with electronic flash to capture the action at its peak intensity, Myers' work falls squarely into the venerable documentary tradition of the medium's great photojournalistic practitioners.

Giordano's photographs, by contrast, focus on the ballet-like dance of the boxing arena and the quicksilver motions through which fighters accomplish their work.

Using fast film but no flash, Giordano's relatively slow shutter speeds capture the blurred movement of the athletes' shoulders, arms and hands as they thrust and parry in the heat of combat.

The resulting images of superimposed and overlapping forms bear a striking structural resemblance to such early 20th-century avant-garde artworks as Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase (1912) and Umberto Boccioni's Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913).

The show continues through March 27. The gallery is at 244 S. Highland Ave. Hours are Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Call 410-534-2212 or visit

For more arts events, see Page 38.

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