Let the Games Begin: The Art of Competition and Just Plain Fun

The Beijing Summer Olympics are history, which makes "Let the Games Begin: The Art of Competition and Just Plain Fun" an ideal way to reflect on how the issues and controversies this year fit into the bigger historical and global arena. Organized in five sections, the exhibit begins with "The Olympics," whose works celebrate the games as their wall placards document their significance. German photographer Dr. Paul Wolff's images reflect the atmosphere of Nazi Germany, which hosted the 1936 Olympics. Warten auf die Olympischen Spiele in Berlin ("Waiting for the Olympic Games in Berlin, Olympic Stadium") communicates rigid structure and a sense of foreboding, while another of Wolff's photos, Jungsport ("Physical Education for the Young"), reflects the party's ideology of unity, perfection, and strength. Like the Olympics themselves, this exhibit spans the centuries and the globe, with varied dynamics at work. Some works, like Cuban photographer Dr. Roberto Machado's Arqueros ("Archers") and French painter Raoul Dufy's Le Concours Hippique ("The Horse Show"), celebrate sporting events. Others offer glimpses into bizarre and esoteric games. "Games of Skill and Chance" has, for example, several carved containers from 19th-century China that were used for housing prize-fighting crickets. "Ball Games" includes Mayan carved stone markers for a deadly ball game in which the losers could die as well as Chinese polo figures from China's Eighth Century Tang dynasty. "Just Plain Fun" looks at leisure sports, while "Game Room" offers a look at some of the world's oldest games, some of which you can actually play. (Through November 30 at Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196.)
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Marya Summers