Arts and Humanities
1:30 pm
Mon January 21, 2013

Art Exhibit Honors 'The Greatest' at Ali Center

A new art exhibit honoring Muhammad Ali is open at The Muhammad Ali Center. “Ali: the Greatest” is a fine art tribute curated by Evolve The Gallery in Sacramento, Calif. Gallery co-owners Brady and A. Michelle Blakeley challenged 19 artists from across the country to create works inspired by the boxing legend.

Though the artists all share the same subject, their work is anything but uniform.

The styles and mediums range from Gerry GOS Simpson's bubbly, conceptual portrait and Taha Clayton's traditional oil painting of Ali's "Raised Fist" to Walter Lobyn Hamilton's mixed media approach, which uses recycled vinyl records and vintage fight posters. Charly Palmer's "King Ali" turns the champ into  stained glass window-style  iconography. Lauren Gillette's "What My Name" sculpture, created from a painted leather jacket, draws a good deal of attention in the room.

A. Michelle Blakeley says the variety of mediums represented is one of the more interesting aspects of the show.

“There’s a little bit of everything, including ball point pen, colored cardboard, watercolor, charcoal, acrylic. You've got oil, you’ve got digital, you’ve got Home Depot paint," says Blakeley.

Corey Pickett's graffiti-influenced reclaimed cardboard mosaic "Freedom's Fight 2010" casts a stencil-styled portrait of Ali against a stars-and-stripes background. 

"As a kid I saw [Ali] as an athlete. He would always say his poems, and he’d say he’s the greatest," says Pickett, who hails from New Mexico. "It wasn’t until I got older that I realized all the things he did outside of boxing. When I got older, and he said he was the greatest, it was true. It wasn’t the boxing, it was all the things he did for people." 

The Blakeleys gave their artists few parameters—just create a piece inspired by the champ, who turned 71 years old last week. But with few exceptions, most of the works are portraits of Ali in his athletic prime.

Brady Blakeley says he wasn’t surprised that so many of the artists traveled back in time for their inspiration.

“I don’t care if Mr. Ali is 200 years old, I’m still going to see that spirited fighter," he says. 

The exhibit runs through March 16.