On April 1, Joseph Gierek Fine Art, 1512 E. 15th St., opened Play Ball, an exhibit that celebrates the marriage of an unlikely couple: baseball and art. Those two things happen to be the primary passions of the gallery's owner, Joseph Gierek, who developed the exhibition from his own collection of baseball art and historic memorabilia.
Gierek, who's been in the art business for 30 years and owned his Cherry Street gallery for 12, has been a baseball fan since childhood.
"I grew up in upstate New York, so I grew up a Yankees fan," Gierek said.
But, as Gierek explains, being a fan in the 1950s was different than being a fan in 2011; it was a hobby. Fans were engrossed in the sport, going out of their way to collect information, and those coveted cards, about every player on their favorite teams -- and other teams as well.
"It was just a different time, a little more magical and mystical in a way," Gierek said. "Because you had to read about these players. Now, you can know everything about every player instantaneously."
Gierek began his collection of baseball stuff as a kid with cards. As an adult, he finds things at auctions and other unusual places.
"I've collected for decades," he said. "You find odd things in different auctions. One time I was looking for Indian pottery and I ran across a game-used jersey."
Some of Gierek's favorite items are cartoon sketches that were printed in newspapers in the 1930s, '40s and '50s.
"I remember as a kid, growing up, you'd open up the sports page and there would be a little cartoon that would say 'Mickey Mantle hit his 50th homerun today' and there'd be a little sketch in there," he said.
One series on display is a set of sketches by Everett Warner of three of 26, 1929 National Baseball Hall of Fame players: Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie, Wee Willie Keeler and Johannes Peter "Honus" Wagner.
"These were done as commemorative postage stamps, which were a popular advertising medium of the day," Gierek said. "These were original drawings that were done of these Hall of Famers through 1939 in pen and ink and collaged, then reduced down to postage stamp size."
Another cartoon on display is one by Thornton Fisher of 1920s Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Charles Arthur "Dazzy" Vance, who signed the image. Burris Jenkins, a prominent sports and political cartoonist of his time, is another artist whose work is on display: a drawing of Robert Moses "Lefty" Grove, who won 300 games in his 17-year career.
"This was reproduced in the newspaper, but when you look at it it's really wonderfully done," Gierek said.
He makes the point that, though the artwork on display -- with the exception of an almost photo-realistic painting of Mickey Cochrane, who was a catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1930, by Arthur K. Miller -- are cartoons, they're still incredible pieces of art. A lost art, of sorts, since they're not produced anymore.
"(The exhibit is) very atypical of what we normally do," Gierek said. "But I thought, there are some wonderful items that are just from a bygone era, in a way, that people would like to see. And the people who have come in really seem to enjoy it. And everyone has a story."
Gierek timed the exhibit -- which also features memorabilia like game-used bats, helmets and jerseys; a menu from Mickey Mantle's Restaurant & Sports Bar in New York City; flags that once flew over Wrigley Stadium; and photographs -- to coincide with the Tulsa Drillers baseball season.
"I've had people in the gallery I never would have had in the gallery before (due to this exhibit)," Gierek said. "I think a lot of people are intimidated sometimes of walking into a gallery. And as people have been walking by, they see a baseball helmet or they see one of these pennants, and they kind of (peer through) the windows and they come inside."
"Play Ball" will hang at Joseph Gierek Fine Art through April 30. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11am-6pm, and information is available at gierek.com.
At the Galleries
On Thursday, April 21, Philbrook Museum of Art, 2727 S. Rockford Road, hosts it monthly 3rd Thursday program, with this month's event featuring the documentary Typeface.
In it, filmmaker Justine Nagan explores American typography and graphic design through a small museum in America's heartland and the new, inspired artwork created there.
Event goers will watch the documentary and then hear the back-story from the filmmaker to discover the convergence of modern design and traditional technique.
"Typeface: Tapping Tradition for Innovation," which is presented in conjunction with the Art Directors Club of Tulsa, begins at 5:30pm and is free with paid museum admission, which is $7.50. More information is available at philbrook.org.
On Saturday, April 23, from 4-11pm, Living Arts will host "earth PicNic: To Honor the Mother" at ParBUSTer Trapeze Park, 1209 E. Third St. The free event allows attendees to bring a picnic lunch to share with friends while viewing performances by flying trapeze artists, Living Arts Dance Committee members, spoken word artists, and "earth artists," who will create site-specific works. Green advocates will be on hand with information about recycling and buying local. More information is at livingarts.org.
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