If there's any time to appreciate football-focused art, it's right now, as Super Bowl 50 approaches. So a South Bay art gallery is capitalizing on the excitement over the "big game" to feature artists whose work hangs at Levi's Stadium, where this year's Super Bowl will be hosted.
JCO's Place in Los Gatos opened the new exhibition called Art of the NFL, on Jan. 12. The idea for it came about last year when the's gallery owner, Julie Jenkins, visited Levi’s Stadium and was “totally floored” by the art collection on the upper decks, according to Bridget McMahon, the gallery’s director. The work had been collected and installed in the stadium by a curatorial agency called Sports & the Arts, who commissioned more than 100 pieces of art for the stadium that celebrated the 49ers specifically, and also a general love of the game.
“So we partnered with Sports & the Arts,” McMahon says, "and had some of their artists make some pieces in that same vein for us.”
The JCO's Place exhibit features six artists whose work is up at the stadium. About half the pieces are replicas of what’s in Levi's, including a California flag collage made with 49ers memorabilia by artist Derek Gores.
Local artists are featured prominently, including Gordon Smedt, Milton Bowens, Russ Wagner and Nick Brown. Brown was born and raised in central California, and he has more than 14 oil paintings in the Levi’s Stadium collection. His oil painting "Dreamcatcher" depicts Dwight Clark’s legendary 1982 NFC Championship game catch, relocated to a dreamscape of yellow grass and rolling green hills.
"I grew up playing tons of sports, and I played football all the way through college," says Brown. "We grew up loving the Niners and the Giants." His dad was at the game when Clark made the catch. When JCO called, that moment was the first idea that came to mind.
Brown wanted to evoke the simplicity of a pickup game, but there was nothing slap dash about the painting. He watched videos of the play "over and over and over." He pressed family members who played football into posing.
For the landscape, Brown picked a spot he's photographed repeatedly while driving north of the Grapevine on Interstate 5, heightening the colors to approximate the green of the after a rain has soaked the hills.
Brown and his parents got meet the former wide receiver at a January 14 reception at JCO's introducing the exhibit. "It was everything and more than I could have dreamed of," says Brown. "It was kind of surreal." Clark even drew out the play on the back of the painting.
McMahon says she's spotted some local high school football players wandering through the gallery in recent days.
“We designed this exhibition to engage everyone from the casual football fan to the hardcore football aficionado, from the art lover to the art collector,” McMahon says. “It’s been interesting to have people come in who might not necessarily stop into an art gallery.”
"The assumption that you have about football art – or sports art in general - is that it’s going to be totally cheesy, right?" McMahon says. "But you have artists making innovative and interesting works that really celebrate the game by highlighting some aspects of it that you don’t typically see."
The exhibit continues through - when else? Feb. 7, the day of the Big Game.