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Sewn together from NBA jerseys, the quilts portray Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Bill Russel, and Jerry West.

Hank Willis Thomas to Exhibit NBA Quilts Ahead of All-Star Game

Hank Willis Thomas, No. 8 (2021). Mixed media including NBA jerseys. Courtesy of the artist. Photograph: Erika Kapin.

Hank Willis Thomas will show quilts sewn together from NBA jerseys in an exhibition that opens in Cleveland from 17 to 20 February.

The exhibition, which anticipates the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday 20 February, includes six quilts depicting basketball greats and one large-scale stainless steel sculpture.

The quilts portray basketball greats Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Bill Russel, and Jerry West, whose silhouette was used to create the current NBA logo in 1969.

The Jerry West work, entitled That's Game (2021), was commissioned by the NBA and online sports magazine Bleacher Report last year in celebration of the organisation's 75th anniversary. That work sparked the creation of the other five, which were created independently by Thomas.

Hank Willis Thomas, No. 13 (2021). Mixed media including NBA jerseys.

Hank Willis Thomas, No. 13 (2021). Mixed media including NBA jerseys. Courtesy of the artist. Photograph: Erika Kapin.

The exhibition's sculpture is a large version of the artist's Liberty sculpture, a disembodied arm spinning a basketball on a single finger, which was inspired by a 1986 Life Magazine photograph that showed Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon performing the same trick in front of the Statue of Liberty.

Sport and its influence on our identities is a major focus of Thomas's work. In 2017, for instance, he made a series of quilts from soccer jerseys using designs based on warrior flags made by Ghana's Fante people in response to the arrival of Europeans.

The exhibition's title, The New Black Aesthetic, comes from a 1989 essay by Trey Ellis, who described the emergence of a new cultural identity informed by the success of African American athletes, artists, and academics.

The New Black Aesthetic exhibition will be held at the Caxton Building, just three blocks from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse where the All-Star Game will be played. —[O]

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