Latest Blanton Exhibit Spotlights ‘Original Rules of Basketball’

“A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed if he tries to stop.”

Long before The University of Texas even had a basketball program, Massachusetts Y.M.C.A. instructor James Naismith penned the above rule, one of 13, for a sport he’d created called “basket ball.” The rule, which refers to what we now know as dribbling and traveling, is third on the 1891 document called the “Original Rules of Basket Ball,” now on display at the Blanton Museum of Art.

Naismith’s document is the centerpiece of the museum’s fall exhibition, The Rules of Basketball: Works by Paul Pfeiffer and James Naismith’s ‘Original Rules of Basket Ball.’ The exhibit pairs the historical document with an installation by contemporary artist Paul Pfeiffer, who takes a more psychological look at the basketball phenomenon through photographic and video work.

“He looks at the celebrity that surrounds these athletes,” says Kathleen Brady Stimpert, director of public relations and marketing at the Blanton. “These are larger-than-life heroic figures, and his work frames them as such. We’re pleased to able to provide an examination of the sport from so many different angles—art, historical, and psychological.”

From large-format photos to tiny 5×6 video screens, Pfeiffer uses various mediums to showcase NBA archival footage, highlighting the spectacle that is the National Basketball Association. Even the antiquated equipment, including projectors, used to display the footage becomes part of the exhibit, taking on a sculptural quality all its own.

“There’s this great interplay with the old technology and the new,” Stimpert says. “The apparatus becomes part of the piece.”

Earlier this month, UT’s men’s and women’s basketball teams took a break from fall practices to visit The Rules of Basketball exhibit, taking particular interest in Naismith’s 1891 document.

“This was a great opportunity for these players to see the rules that started it all,” Stimpert says. “This document sparked the game they love to play.”

The Rules of Basketball will be on display at the Blanton until Jan. 13, 2013.

Can’t see the slideshow? Click here.

Photos by Spencer Selvidge.


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