Cranbrook Art Museum’s new exhibit uses basketballs and nets as media
When it comes to using found materials for his works, Tyrrell Winston doesn’t just think outside the box. He thinks outside the net. Or the rim.
For a time, Winston, who was based in New York but moved to Detroit with his wife and baby daughter in March this year, created art from old cigarette butts. He scoured the floor outside the bars, looking for ones with lipstick marks on them.
“People would say, ‘If you really want a cigarette, you can have one,'” Winston said.
But now Winston, a basketball fanatic since he was a kid, has made a name for himself using sports equipment – preferably deflated basketballs he found and old basketball nets (he replaces with new ones) to create sculptures that raise questions about community, fame, heroes and what society values.
This weekend, Winston’s first solo museum exhibition, “Tyrrell Winston: A Tiger’s Stripes”, opens at the Cranbrook Art Museum, a unique crossroads of art and sport. It’s one of two new exhibits with Michigan ties opening this weekend at the museum.
The other features multidisciplinary artist Flint Tunde Olaniran who created a modern contemporary horror film, “Made a Universe”, and an entire exhibit built around replicas of sets from the film.
“I never thought I was going to use sports as a medium,” said Winston, who said it was actually a European gallerist who saw the deflated basketballs in his New York studio and l had encouraged to create something. “It was a happy accident.”
For Winston, creating art out of sports materials is in many ways “biting the bear”. He also creates paintings with linen house paint and chalk based on the signatures of famous sports personalities such as Ty Cobb and Muhammad Ali.
“I think at first people were like, ‘This is ridiculous. We don’t get it. You paint autographs? What’s so special?’ That was the idea of like Bart Simpson , ‘I will not speak in class.’ Or John Baldessari had done this piece with students in the ’70s ‘I won’t do boring art anymore,'” Winston said, standing in his Russell Industrial Center studio with a New York Yankees hat. “I started thinking about fame and how these heroes of today become an asterisk of yesteryear.”
Winston, who actually grew up in Southern California and is self-taught, said he started using old basketballs in his art almost by accident. Prior to his cigarette butt sculptures, he made collages from drug paraphernalia, but disliked how the material distracted much of his audience.
“I think I was trying a little too hard to say something,” Winston said.
Around this time, he started noticing abandoned basketballs in the gutters. And when he overheard a conversation among kids about basketball nets never being changed, an idea came to him: he could remove the old nets, replace them with new ones, and use the old nets to create Something.
“It was a light bulb,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly what it would be like but that day I went out and got 10 nets. I wasn’t even using a ladder. I would take a bin” and stand on it to replace the net.
On display in Cranbrook, there are two freestanding sculptures made from hundreds of basketball nets, many of which were salvaged (and replaced with new nets) from Detroit basketball courts. Another sculpture, inspired by John Chamberlain, a sculptor who made art out of old car parts, is made from bleachers.
The centerpiece of the exhibit, however, is a massive collection of 144 deflated and used basketballs mounted on the wall in a grid pattern. Balls are aged from weather and use. A rod runs through the balls to connect them and Winston fills them with epoxy to keep them in shape.
Laura Mott, the museum’s chief curator, said she was really intrigued by artists who use found objects, especially from the city.
Objects are “measures of time and history,” she said. “…It’s a kind of visual storytelling.”
And the sport is one of the most community-oriented acts, Mott said.
“As someone interested in visual culture, Tyrrell touches on all of those things with his practice,” Mott said.
For a guy who dreamed of playing in the NBA as a kid, Winston, who has the words “Slam Dunk” tattooed on his neck, now he’s achieving sporting glory in another way.
“The funny thing about my journey is that I’ve wanted to make an impact in the professional sports world for so long and now I’m doing it through my job, which is really, really cool,” Winston said.
Olaniran has made a name for himself as a Flint-based multidisciplinary artist, musician, singer and performer, but their latest project, a contemporary horror film they co-wrote, co-directed and co-scored for the Cranbrook Art Museum, pushed them in new ways and may be their most ambitious project to date.
The 26-minute film, “Made a Universe”, asked Olaniran to act, write, compose and edit. They depict the central character going through various portals, using their perceived weaknesses, which actually turn out to be their strengths, to defeat “the state” or enemies.
Inspired by archetypes found in comic books such as the New Mutants, an X-Men spin-off, it was filmed largely in Detroit in 2021 with Detroit-based crew. And Olaniran has collaborated with some serious heavy hitters, including star cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who provided some of the music. Other collaborators included Ellen Rutt, Natasha Beste and Lisa Waud, among others. Paige Wood is the producer and co-writer of Olaniran.
“It reflects the experiences of being queer, of being poor, of being black, in a place like Flint,” Olaniran said. “Not just living the water crisis, but anyone living in poverty, there are very dramatic things that can happen. But there are also these small daily, weekly and monthly events that I only experience from economic point of view.”
Olaniran had just completed a music video in 2018 with Rutt when the artist began having conversations with Mott about a possible collaboration at Cranbrook and what it would look like.
If COVID had never happened, it might have been a different project, Olaniran said. But the pandemic gave them and Wood, who co-wrote, co-directed and co-scored the film, more time to really flesh out the story and create something they had never done. previously. The Knight Foundation funded the project.
“Usually my work was very ‘This is the song. Here’s the visual for the song,'” said Olaniran, who said he learned a lot about the collaboration. “…This very easily could have been just a music video. If COVID had never happened, we might never have taken the time to develop a longer story.”
For a museum, Mott said they’ve never done anything like “Made A Universe.”
“Essentially, we’ve created a movie that gives a little nod to campy horror but also superheroes. It’s kind of a hero’s journey,” Mott said.
Ultimately, Olaniran, who said the film also includes two new, previously unreleased songs, really wants viewers to see it and “take what they want out of it.”
“That’s the case with any artist – you have a song that you write with your own intention, but it has a million different meanings for people and how they react to it,” they said.
Cranbrook Museum of Art Summer Exhibitions
“Tyrrell Winston: A Tiger’s Stripes” opens to the public on Saturday and will run until September 25.
“Tunde Olaniran: Made a Universe” has a red carpet premiere for members of the art museum at 6 p.m. Friday; tickets are $20 for the public to attend the premiere. The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday and will run until September 25.