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Santa Fe
Group Exhibition
516 ARTS
516 Central Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
October 1, 2011 - January 7, 2012


| november 2011  THE magazine | 53

BAM! Here comes 516 ARTS with another killer exhibition. Superheroes is an all-good,

twenty-plus-artist showing of aesthetic defenders kicking you in the kisser. Like you’re minding

your own business when outta nowhere—POP, ZING, ZOWIE—you’re attacked by a buncha

evildoers, and at the end of some horrendously freaky ordeal you emerge with a bizarre set of

powers that set you apart from the rest of the world forever... Okay, so maybe it didn’t quite

happen like that. But WHAMMO!—from your newfound vantage point upon the human race

you see humanity in all its struggling frailness, vulnerabilities exposed, and you have to decide:

Do I save the planet and all humanity with my amazing new superpowers, or SMASH!, flatten

them all like I’m a hedgefunder and they’re just little bugs.

Pondering this question, you are greeted at the door by Mr. Bends, a larger-than-life scubadiving

cyclops created by Esteban Bojorques of Santa Fe. Hard not to like and hard not to fear.

His pose suggests, with perfectly balanced ambiguity, either an extreme of love and acceptance,

or a zombielike desire to destroy everything in his path. Bojorques has created the sculptural

embodiment of a character with no middle ground, the absolute absolutist, and the self-dueling

dualist, opposing himself in both directions, immobilized in big monster-boots of indecision. It

doesn’t have to be one way or another. It’s almost always both and neither. That’s what you

want to tell the big lug, but he’s not asking you.

So, faster than a speeding bullet you make for the telephone booth in the center of the

space. You’ll duck in there, shed your street clothes, and emerge in the form of… but wait,

someone has already been here. On the floor of the booth is a pile of clothes—men’s slacks

with the belt still in them, a white shirt, and a dollop of tie.

The brilliance of ABQ artist Benjamin Johnsen’s installation is a focus on the obsolescence

of Clark Kent’s clothing to the narrative of the Superman storyline. Removing a layer to emerge

in a new identity propels the rising action as our hero then immediately flies into the air to

conquer some more eeevil. If the camera were to linger—like Goddard—scrap the old up, up,

and away, and instead come close-in on the phone booth and pan down to the floor, they’d see

you as a homeless guy going through the pockets of the clothes the last super-dude left behind,

before ducking into the phone booth and changing into them yourself. You emerge in your

newfound secret identity, with Clark Kent’s wallet and watch to boot. DA DA! Ordinary Guy.

You proceed unrecognized, yet ready for action. And boy do you get it. Mark Newport is in

permanent motion, knitting non-stop. Knitting full-body superhero costumes is a commitment,

and one that Newport takes seriously. In a video, we see the artist sitting in profile, in a

head-to-toe knit suit of beige, creating all-yarn bodysuits for such tough guys as Argyle Man.

The fact that he’s got six or so of these life-size hand-knit suits on display seems like an almost

superhuman feat itself. As Ordinary Guy you are stunned by his fortitude and the issues it raises

for you and your super ordinary sexuality in relation to your inherited concept of the ultra

sexuality of the hero crowd. Regardless, Newport is a force for good.

Yet, we suffer for our art as tireless crimefighters and lazy, crazy-headed supervillians.

Witness the digital prints of Boneface from Liverpool, UK (though soon to conquer the world.)

These are the heroes down on their luck, socked in the jaw, bloody-nosed and all portrayed in

playful Pop colors like deflating balloons making the pain of the party more perfectly, poignantly

dismal. Or what about the psychic break implied by the classic Alone, a brilliant short film

realized by Gerard Freixes Ribera using old Lone Ranger footage with all the other characters

digitally removed. So he talks to Tonto, but Tonto isn’t there, and, hilariously, he fights a nonexistent

bad guy. The extreme of the individualist ethic of the hero extends clearly into the

realm of madness. Think Joe Arpaio and just how tonto the all-alone Ranger looks in this 2008

Ribera masterpiece.

Of course, the real superheroes these days are those occupying Wall Street in their stand

for peace and economic justice. Hats and everything else off to them for taking that super-brave

step into the street, to employ that best and most mighty superpower humans have going—

cooperation for our mutual betterment—in order to make economic justice real. Superheroes is

up through the first week of January 2012. So don your cape and boots, jump out your window,

and fly your super-ass down to Albuquerque to occupy 516 ARTS.

—Jon Carver

Posted by 516 Arts on 11/9/11 | tags: mixed-media sculpture installation video-art pop photography digital abstract figurative

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