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Exhibition examines artists' responses to Wonder Woman and Superman
Renée Cox, Chillin’ with Liberty (from the Rajé series), 1998. Cibachrome print, 60 x 48 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Long Gallery.

SAN ANTONIO, TX.- The San Antonio Museum of Art is presenting the special exhibition Men of Steel, Women of Wonder (MOSWOW) on June 21. Organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the exhibition examines artists' responses to Wonder Woman and Superman, ranging from their Depression-era origins to today’s contemporary interpretations. MOSWOW features more than seventy works including paintings, photographs, installations, and videos and will be on view until September 1, 2019.

"Superheroes personify our collective hopes and dreams," said Katie Luber, the Museum's Kelso Director. “From their earliest incarnations in 1930s comic books to the most recent megahit Avengers: Endgame, it’s no wonder that so many artists have found inspiration in these cultural icons, exploring the relationship of Superman and Wonder Woman to national identity, American values, social politics, sexuality, and the concept of humanity. We believe these works will provoke powerful conversations.”

The exhibition includes a wide range of artists—such as Laylah Ali, Dara Birnbaum, Renée Cox, Mary Beth Edelson, Fahamu Pecou, Pope.L, Mel Ramos, Norman Rockwell, and Jim Shaw, among others—and is organized thematically with four large sections.

Men of Steel, Women of Wonder opens with a section called “The Heroes We Know,” which features familiar depictions of Superman and Wonder Woman―reaffirming these characters as cultural icons. The second section, “Origin Stories,” places these characters into the contexts from which they emerged (the 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 the ways they are made more human by their vulnerabilities.

The last section concludes with “Defender of Innocents,” in which 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.

“I think the artworks by Latinx artists about immigration and national identity will be particularly meaningful in South Texas and in San Antonio," said Lana Meador, Assistant Curator and the exhibition presenting curator. "Our city is rich in history and diversity, and we look forward to engaging our community with this exhibition."

MOSWOW also features works by artists who have lived and worked in Texas: Peter Saul, Robert Pruitt, Michael Ray Charles, and Mel Casas.

Men of Steel, Women of Wonder will be complemented by lectures, artist talks, films, and special events as well as a catalogue available for purchase in The Museum Shop, published by Crystal Bridges and the University of Arkansas Press. The exhibition will travel in the fall to The Addison Gallery of American Art: Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

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