February 18 — March 25, 2017

NCAA Presents:Sidelines:Soft Power in the Margins

Maria Molteni

Conduit Gallery is honored to exhibit NCAA Presents… Sidelines: Soft Power in the Margins. The NCAA (New Craft Artists in Action) was founded in 2010 by multidisciplinary artist Maria Molteni. Currently, the NCAA are an international artist collective with open membership and home-court representation in Boston, MA. Through exhibitions, workshops, community projects, and publications they work to integrate the skills, materials, and histories of many intersecting disciplines: athletics, craft, public space, aesthetics, labor, recreation, and feminism. NCAA projects combine the discipline, sportsmanship and physicality of athletics with the focus, dexterity and creativity of craft.

The Conduit Gallery Project Room will present an installation of NCAA’s most notable project Net Works - by which vibrant hand-made basketball nets are crafted for empty basketball hoops. These works occupy the margins, calling attention to the overlooked public spaces. The nets demonstrate ephemeral, resourceful solutions that might inspire members of the community to insert their own visions. 

Of course, marginalization refers to people as much as space. Women, queer and trans folks have traditionally been pushed to the sidelines, unwelcome or under supported in athletic contexts. The opinions of players of color are often silenced and their roles exploited, even from the center of the court. Finally, in a consumer culture that champions Spectatorship over Participation and consumption over production, the artist is marginalized. Practicing ones craft or technique, whether perfecting a free-throw or slip-knot, must have some market value to be validated. 

Included in the installation is a series of hand-knit, crochet and macramé basketball nets created by NCAA collaborators: Maria Molteni, Samantha Fields, Emily Manning Mingle and Taylor McVay. The nets hang in front of custom wall vinyl created by Molteni to mirror the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics design scheme and palette. The collective often appropriates this motif to emphasize the utopian/dystopian image of global sporting events in an era when art and athletics naturally collided. Their publication Net Works, also on view, takes a critical position on the Olympics and commercial sports cultures siting the 2012 conflict between the US Olympic Committee and Ravelry. Molteni’s essay ‘A History of Basketball and the Tactile and Tactical Liberation of Recreation’ outlines the controversial USOC Cease and Desist order issued to the craft blog’s community who proposed a competitive knitting “Ravelympics” during London’s 2012 Games.

Furthering the historical and social implications of basketball, a series of pennants highlight the names of several early 20th century, self-organized black female basketball teams e.g. Smarter Set, Mysterious Girls, Blue Belts, Gloom Chasers, and Cosmopolitans. It is through these aesthetic and historical investigations that Molteni is able to unearth the possibilities of marginalized women in the world of professional sports and call into question popular culture’s perception of women as professionals. 

Maria Molteni is a Nashville-to-Boston-based multimedia & performing artist, educator & organizer. Having studied Painting and Printmaking at Boston University, her practice sprung from formalist roots, and has grown to incorporate research, social engagement, and transdisciplinary experimentation. She playfully asks audiences to imagine her serving Black Mountain College as their PE coach. From fiber to found-object sculpture, textile to movement, performance to publication, she employs processes per their ability to manifest elaborate conceptual orchestration and formal satisfaction. Exploring iterations of sport, craft, feminism, spiritualism, animism, utopia, glossolalia and urban planning, she takes interest in standardized shapes and systems that influence our experience of spirituality through everyday functionality. Embellishing psychic energy in her environments, she seeks to expose unseen presences or predicaments, both cosmic and practical. Whether trapping such forces in wind-powered inflatables or posing a basketball net as a hoop’s phantom limb, she enjoys problem solving via traditional methods of craft- the tactile and tactical. Her works introduce original or absurdist processes as applied aesthetic solutions. In 2010 Molteni launched the international collective New Craft Artists in Action. She co-founded the participatory project Festooning the Inflatable Beehive after working with beekeepers from across the country, including Treatment Free Apiculturalists Golden Rule.

Molteni is a current Artist in Residence for the City of Boston and the Boston Centers for Youth & Families. This will be the first exhibition in Texas for Molteni. 

Artists in this Exhibition: