identity unbound - Albuquerque Journal

identity unbound

Los Angeles-based artist Aaron Noble has always been interested in comic book illustration. He got his start in the style but took a break from it for many years. Now, he’s made his way back – sort of.

“I’ve always been interested in the style of cartooning. What I do now is very abstract, but it stays true to the greatness of the comic-book style,” he says during a recent phone interview from Los Angeles. “There’s an emphasis of power, and it’s a new dynamic for me.”

Noble is one of the 15 featured artists in “Superheroes: Icons of Good, Evil & Everything in Between,” which opens Saturday, Oct. 1, at 516 ARTS.

If you go
WHAT: “Superheroes: Icons of Good, Evil & Everything in Between”

WHEN: Opening reception 6-8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1. Show continues noon-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through Jan. 7

WHERE: 516 ARTS, 516 W. Central

HOW MUCH: Free. More information at

The exhibition is a multimedia group show about heroes, villains and other less-definable examples of human possibility, exploring notions of identity both real and imagined.

“The exhibition found me,” Noble says of getting involved in the event. “Someone contacted me and I wanted to do the show. This is the first show that I’ve participated in solely around superheroes.”

Rhiannon Mercer, the assistant director of 516 ARTS, says the exhibition was co-curated by Neilie Johnson. The exhibition will include poetry, film and educational events for the community during the three-month run.

“We’ve had the idea on the back burner for a while and think it’s a fun idea,” she says. “During the year we tackle some very serious social commentary and other times they are more academically based. We used this opportunity to tap into the playful and popular culture side of looking at icons in unconventional ways.”

Mercer says rather than looking at superheroes or villains in the way they have been presented to us through movie or comic books, the exhibit gives a fresh perspective.

“Setting yourself outside of reality is what each piece does,” she explains. “Each piece kind of soothes us in a way and lets us know that there is someone out there courageous enough. It’s a timeless idea.”

Mercer says it was a difficult process to pick 15 artists for the exhibition.

“We tried to select artists who were broad in spectrum in media,” she says. “We wanted to showcase the artists who could get their message across in different ways. There’s an artist that is doing a mural in the space, there are knitted works. They are just items that you don’t likely see on a daily basis.”

Mercer says that’s the reason Noble fits in so well into the exhibition.

“Aaron is a perfect person to capture this,” she says. “His abstraction of blending superheroes and villains is what it’s about.”

Noble says within his works he wants to tell the underlying story.

“You look at a painting and it’s so complex,” he says. “But the story line is simple, and I want to capture that.”

Noble’s process for his work is a bit different from a lot of other artists. He said each work starts out as a collage.

“I cut out old comic-book pages and put them together,” he says. “When the collage is put together, that is what inspires the painting or mural. It’s a grueling process for me, but it’s what works.”

Noble says he shuffles, scans, rotates and adjusts the pieces over and over until there are hints of the new form.

“Faculties of taste, faith, daring and persistence are called upon, and it usually it takes three days,” he says. “The final transmutation is physically demanding: The fragile paper plan raised to architectural scale; the sordid action figures remixed as weightless metallic abstraction, the dark energies of adolescence purified and fulfilled in serene post-human ecstasy.”

Mercer says Noble is going to attend the opening of the exhibit and is planning to hold a workshop explaining his method.

“We’re still trying to finalize the date, but he will be teaching a group,” she says. “We’re shooting for Sept. 30.”

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