Published: March 5, 2019
BENTONVILLE, ARK. – Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art presents the debut of its exhibition “Men of Steel, Women of Wonder,” which will be on view through April 22. Curated by Crystal Bridges’ assistant curator Alejo Benedetti, the exhibition features approximately 70 artworks, including paintings, photography, video, sculptures and performance art, created by over 50 US and international artists, including Renée Cox, Mel Ramos, Laurie Anderson, Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Dara Birnbaum, Roger Shimomura, Jacky Tsai, Enrique Chogoya, Michael Ray Charles, Raymond Pettibon, Pope.L, Norman Rockwell, and more.
“We are excited to debut of ‘Men of Steel, Women of Wonder,’ which continues our commitment to organize fresh and innovative exhibitions that inspire creative conversations,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer of Crystal Bridges. “Through the lens of Superman and Wonder Woman, these artists invite us to explore these characters and reflect on our own shared humanity.”
“Men of Steel, Women of Wonder” is the first major exhibition to analyze art-world responses to Superman and Wonder Woman. After the exhibition debuts at Crystal Bridges, it will travel to the San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.
“This is a dream show for me,” said Alejo Benedetti. “These are characters I’ve loved for years, seen through the ever-watchful eyes of artists. Superman and Wonder Woman may be superheroes, but the issues they tackle are innately human – and whether heralded or critiqued, these characters are as relevant as ever. It’s a project our team has worked on for years and one we’re thrilled to finally share with the public.”
The exhibition is organized thematically with four large sections. The exhibition opens with a section called “The Heroes We Know,” which features familiar depictions of Superman and Wonder Woman―meant to reaffirm that these characters are known to all visitors.
The second section, “Origin Stories,” places these characters into the cultural contexts from which they emerged (Great Depression, World War II). The third section, “Glimpsing Humanity,” considers Superman and Wonder Woman as American Gods, much like Zeus and Hera of Greek mythology. Artists frame these heroes as all-powerful symbols to respect (or fear), yet also explore their vulnerabilities and the ways the characters are humanized by them.
The exhibition concludes with “Defender of Innocents,” where artists explore the ethical and moral values these characters represent. Artists use these two icons to explore feminism, racial discrimination, gender and sexuality, immigration concerns, ideas of national identity and the United States’ ethical responsibilities in global politics.
“The exhibition examines how artists use Superman and Wonder Woman – enduring American icons – as an entry point to discuss national identity, American values, social politics and humanity itself,” said Benedetti. “The artworks range from loving endorsements of heroic ideals to critiques of issues affecting American society.”
Crystal Bridges, at 600 Museum Way, offers a multitude of public programs in conjunction with “Men of Steel, Woman of Wonder,” including lectures, performances, classes, tours and other programs. For information, www.crystalbridges.org or 479-418-5700.
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