Victor Solomon's Stained Glass Backboards And Brass Zines @ Soze Galley
Victor Solomon, an artist born and raised in Boston, Mass. during the waning years of the Larry Bird era (late 80s, early 90s), commingles the disciplines of art and sport—specifically basketball—in his work.
By Macklin Stern
Victor Solomon, an artist born and raised in Boston, Mass. during the waning years of the Larry Bird era (late 80s, early 90s), commingles the disciplines of art and sport—specifically basketball—in his work. “I think there are a lot of parallels with what goes into being a successful basketball player and making a work of art,” Solomon says. “They both require incredible discipline, creativity, and style.”
In 2015, he introduced his “Literally Balling” project to the world, which at the time consisted primarily of stained glass backboards complete with bejeweled nets made from old chandeliers. The stained glass material is a nod to the Middle Ages when kings used it to demonstrate the prosperity of their capital cities. As Solomon explains, it transformed things like church windows into opulent masterpieces, albeit sacrificing their practicality in the process.
“It looks really nice and people can see it from far away and go, ‘Oh, that’s a rich guy,’ but we can’t see out this window anymore... [The object] stops having the function that it was initially intended for.”
Solomon applies this notion to his backboards as a way to comment on the glitz, glamour, and money that come with being a modern day NBA superstar. His lifestyle is one of luxury and decadence. But the most unique aspect about the sport of basketball—something Solomon brilliantly represents in his work—is that it’s not inherently or solely meant to be enjoyed by the wealthy.
“You take basketball, which has this really low barrier of entry for class, and you see it in projects and prisons,” Solomon says. “At the same time, you also have NBA players signing $100 million contracts and Russell Westbrook’s [lavish] off-court style. It can cross all of these bounds, which I think is really interesting.”
This notion of “crossing bounds” speaks to the central principle of Solomon’s “Literally Balling” initiative, which is that of prole drift (a.k.a. Proletarian drift). Prole drift refers to the tendency for the upper class to adopt styles and products of the lower class and make them their own. Had basketball existed during the Middle Ages and peaked the interest of the elite, you can bet they would have fashioned luxurious stained glass backboards and bejeweled nets similar to Solomon’s.
To compliment his posh hoops, Solomon is adding a new accessory to his “Literally Balling” collection: zines. These zines are constructed out of laser-etched brass plates that are stacked and bound together by leather cords.
“So we’re elevating these basketball backboards to this really ornate, luxurious item,” Solomon explains. “At the same time, we’re taking zines and the zine culture and everything that goes along with it, and elevating it into this ridiculous luxury. The stories in them are of ridiculous opulence.”
In one of the zines, NBA great Charles Barkley sits in front of stacks of poker chips, not so subtly alluding to his gambling habit. In another, Gilbert Arenas bears a sheepish grin and the caption below contains an actual Arenas quote in which he boasts about how much dough he drops at strip clubs.
Although spending money is a central theme of the engravings, Solomon clarifies that not all of them depict NBA players being wasteful. “It was really important for me that they weren’t all just stories of Iverson being ridiculous. There’s also stuff like Shaq paying off his family’s house and buying them all Mercedes.” Portraying the fruitful and prodigal ways ballers handle their wealth allows us to understand that luxury can be both beautiful and grotesque.
If you want to see more of Solomon’s truly unique work, check out his website and head over to the Soze Gallery in Los Angeles on September 8th. There, Solomon will present five new backboards and unveil his brass zines in person for the first time. It will literally be balling.