ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Super-klutz! 516 ARTS is showing “Superheroes: Icons of Good, Evil and Everything in Between,” an international 24-artist multimedia exhibition that revisits mythological archetypes and modern misfits.
Mythology has wrestled with the positive and negative aspects of human nature since our first breaths were drawn eons ago. Along the way some version of the superhero and its antihero counterpart has emerged in all cultures to balance the forces of good verses evil.
Michelangelo’s 25-foot-tall “David” transformed an adolescent slingshot-wielding giant slayer into the karma-cleansed, albeit slain, giant. In similar fashion Esteban Bojorquez of Santa Fe offers his heroic scale “Mister Bends,” a Cyclops-inspired hero who allegedly has the power to bend time and space.
“Mister Bends” certainly fills the space of the gallery’s redesigned entrance.
Nearby, Aaron Noble adds a surrealistic and pop-art touch to the collection with paintings that fragment form and seem to float in a spatial netherworld.
The real world burdens the hero of “Super Ordinary,” a short video by Albuquerque artist Benjamin Johnsen depicting the artist taking two minutes and 51 seconds to perform a telephone booth transformation into a cape-enhanced public servant of unknown purpose.
The video installation includes an application letter to the city of Albuquerque personnel office seeking a position as a generic public servant with unspecified duties. Johnsen also built his own full-scale phone booth complete with telephone pole and heavy-duty wire for “Gone in a Flash,” a sculptural homage to the “real” Superman who left his clothing and briefcase behind on his way to save mankind.
Mark Newport of Michigan needs a comfortable chair and many hours to hand knit his supersuits. His one-piece costumes include booties and gloves for the superhero who refuses to let fashion take a back seat while pursuing villainess behavior.
Newport has enormous talent, a sense of humor and loads of patience.
If thoughts really are things, then Albuquerque artist David Cudney’s apparently passive “Mental Man” may well be performing miracles. The thoughtfully designed submerged assemblage includes a plastic replica of Rodin’s “Thinker” embellished with a doll’s head and an external brain.
The whole resides inside a water-filled chamber resembling a cross between a lighthouse, diver’s helmet and the lantern carried by Diogenes in search of an honest man. The piece includes a psychokinetically powered treadmill that may be the answer to our energy needs (it’s really spun by a hidden water pump, but don’t tell anybody).
Cullen Washington Jr. of Boston expresses urban life with its fractured buildings and cultural wealth juxtaposed with dark spaces, poverty and grief through the utilization of collage and layered heroic imagery. His “Hero’s Story” series builds toward a positive outcome for youths who are too often afflicted with low expectations.
Jolene Yazzie of Santa Fe painted a giant mural “Bik’eh Hozho” that embodies both positive cultural archetypes and harmful stereotypes surrounding the warrior princess concept. Yazzie seeks to bridge and clarify cultural misunderstandings while recognizing and healing her own inner conflicts.
North Dakota artist Joel Jonientz reveals and entertains with his beautifully rendered animation titled “Big Brother Battle,” a story that once ended tragically when Cain and Abel carried sibling rivalry to the ultimate extreme.
In Jonientz’s rendition of the old conflict, an eraser and a fresh stick of white chalk are all that’s needed to set things right again. Two thumbs up.
Zap, Pow, Bam! The Dynamic Duo arrives to set things straight in yet another triumph of Batman and Robin, who quell evil deeds in Gotham City. But wait! English artist Boneface wants to show the aftermath of those biffing bashes in his all-too-bloody-for-primetime digital prints. His heroes bleed real blood, and like Hercules with a crew cut they are vulnerable to the mosh-pit lifestyles they have chosen.
This is a wonderfully strong show with far more talent than mentioned here. Don’t miss the short films and videos section curated by Brian Konefsky. They range from funny to enervating.