August 27 – November 15, 2014
Work by Carlos Donjuan, Hector Hernandez, Dulce Pinzón, & Rio Yañez
Curated by Joey Reyes
MACLA opened its 2014-15 season with UNMASKED, an exhibition on real and re-imagined superheroes.
Diversity has come to comic books. As women and minority consumption of comic books and graphic novels has risen, so has the push to diversify its representation of superheroes: an African-American Captain America, a female Thor, and a Puerto Rican Spider-Man named Miles Morales, to name a few re-workings of the superhero stories we know so well. The Latino artists featured in Unmasked explore cultural and social issues of identity and otherness through the visual language of comic books, science fiction and superheroes; they also incorporate the heroic story of and expand on the mythology of the superhero.
Superheroes have been a large part of the American literary, graphic, and pop culture landscape since the early 20th century; their history can be traced back to epic tales of good versus evil and superhuman and otherworldly figures such as Achilles and Zeus. The idea of the heroic figure is also ingrained in the American consciousness from folk tales of Paul Bunyan, a larger-than- life lumberjack with superhuman qualities, to Mose the Fireman, the toughest firefighter in all of New York City, eight feet tall and strong enough to lift a New York streetcar with ease.
Superheroes have captured the popular imagination because they are aspirational while simultaneously exhibiting human vulnerabilities. They possess extraordinary talents or superhuman powers, but just as frequently they display their humanity: a refined sense of justice and equality, inventiveness and courage, all the while concealing their identity. As curator Joey Reyes says, “to unmask is to reveal. The artists in this exhibition reveal a malleable vision of the superhero as icon, one that embodies the qualities of hard work and sacrifice, humor and satire, vulnerability, and the ability to overcome adversity.”