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Everybody Knew That Canadians Were The Best Hockey Players
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November 08, 2007 — January 19, 2008
76 Grand Street, New York

Kauper’s exhibition at Deitch Projects will include four larger than life size paintings, two with figures in elaborate interiors, and two with isolated figures on monochrome grounds. There will also be one smaller tondo painting reminiscent of the format of vintage hockey cards. The nude portrayal of the hockey stars has a deliberate destabilizing, almost surreal effect. Kauper likes the conceptual displacement of a burly hockey player with his uniform removed. He is interested in the perceptual slippage from the expectation of brute masculinity to vulnerability and tenderness.

As part of the research behind his hockey player series, Kauper came across a video that documented a once famous series of games between Canadian professional hockey players and Soviet amateurs. The first line of the documentary, “Everybody knew that Canadians were the best hockey players,” became the title of Kauper’s exhibition. Because professionals were not allowed to compete in the Olympics, Canada’s best players were not able to play on their Olympic teams. Canadians—who invented ice hockey and considered it to be their national past-time--were humiliated to be defeated in Olympic play the Soviet Union’s best players, technically considered amateurs, and it was decided to arrange a series of matches between a team made up of the best Canadian professionals and the Soviet amateurs. The documentary counterposed the well-equipped Canadians against the Soviets with their torn shirts and worn equipment. Against all expectations—as well as the Canadian players’ and press member’s hubristic predications of quick victory--the Soviet amateurs handily defeated the Canadian all stars in the first game, and nearly won the series; they lost the final and deciding game after one of the Canadian professionals intentionally broke the ankle of the Soviet Union’s best player, Valerie Kharlamov. The title has implications of desperation, exhaustion, and cultural enervation and resonates as an analogy of the current state of America. It suggests an illusion of certainty and power that is breaking down.

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Kurt Kauper

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