Strange bedfellows at first glance, athletics and contemporary art will collide in a star-studded new show at the Wexner Center for the Arts that should get people in both realms talking.

Strange bedfellows at first glance, athletics and contemporary art will collide in a star-studded new show at the Wexner Center for the Arts that should get people in both realms talking.

"Part of the reason I did this show is that there is a prejudice in the art world that sport is too popular to warrant analysis," said Christopher Bedford, curator of exhibitions at the Wex. "It's an incredibly rich field of inquiry."

Hard Targets, running Jan. 30-April 11, peers deeper into sports than commercial channels allow and critiques the masculinity associated with competition. Along the way, it asks important questions about how, why and what it is that we watch, desire and adore.

Bedford's idea to examine athletics originated at Oberlin College, where he studied contemporary art and played football. His eagerness to combine seemingly disparate themes eventually led to Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports, a traveling exhibition organized several years ago.

With this third installment, Bedford has found an "ideal incarnation" - broader scope, sharper themes and A-list entrants.

Among the 25 artists included are Matthew Barney, Andreas Gursky, Paul Pfeiffer, Joe Sola and Jonas Wood. Videos, photographs, paintings, sculptures and installations run the gamut from funny and irreverent to sexy and poignant.

Highlights will include Barney's Cremaster 4, a film centered around sexuality and a motorcycle race, and Pfeiffer's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a series of artfully manipulated photos from the NBA archives.

"It was interesting to see an artist borrow from a realm that hadn't been borrowed from before," Bedford said of the 70 works completed during two decades.

Bedford expects the show to engage regular patrons who appreciate art's power to offer social commentary as well as sports fans who've never been to a gallery.

"I would hope viewers see that sports should be a more democratic domain than it is," he said. "There are many ways to engage as a participant and a viewer. This exhibition tries to open up those possibilities in really radical ways."