In today’s terms, the superhero is a component of the contemporary mythological psyche. They are a representative from the everyday world, touched with ultra-human capacities, (however flawed) and act as a social servant to redeem everyday chaos. Usually, our favorite supersheroes are those that may share our personal vulnerabilities but possess the very superpowers to which we aspire in our fantasies. The superheroes of cartoons, comics, and animations offer just enough information to tell a story or illustrate a character’s identity, revealing their purpose – their mission. Each individual artist of the collective, theMiracle5, toys with the idea of the superhero and explores possibilities beyond typical superhero genre. Merging the the roles of the superhero and the artist, theMiracle5 have conflated the definition of both roles.
Their work is conceptual, but not rigorously theoretical. By promoting themselves as a “superhero team” rather than an trypical art collective, they can cultivate entertainment without grinding the moral ax on a singular mission (they claim to actually be cartoons in a superhero team, travelling with a disco ball from show to show). Unlike most superhero teams, however, apparently anyone can join; all you need is “a secret identity and at least 5 fingers” according to Boutet Lobsterclaw (artist Ken Boutet), who is a man with a lobster claw hand. Though, the show ¡ATTACK! at the Rhys Gallery exhibits only five “superhero-art star-alter egos,” a sixth member, “selecta sleepp,” can be found on their website, perhaps adding members faster than their exhibitions can incorporate.
PRINCESSdie (artist Elaine Bay) created the most dominant series of works in the show as her multi dimensional installation covers the most area and offers the most potent imagery. She frequently uses kitschy religious iconography in her work, but denies its religious significance even despite reportedly having read the Book of Revelation last summer. She appropriates found objects, which she begins by finding with her super perceptive radar eyes, into a new class of existence. She claims to have the “ability to transform matter into miracles”, and in the dieDEITY series, the matter (the found objects) take on her image. This includes “horn(s), a heart shaped tongue, knives for eyes, a star above the head, mullet and/or ponytails.” La Cobra Verde (artist Aimee Laporte), works directly with identity more than any of the other artists in theMiracle5. She creates Lucha Libre masks, but her work also touches upon Christianity, providing a foil to that of PRINCESSdie’s. However, this complicates the overall installation in that PRINCESSdie reject her own works’ religious significance.
PRINCESSdie seems to also follow Miracle5’s mission closest in that its purpose “is to create miracles for the earth’s well being – both imaginings and visions.” However, she seems to deviate on their “major responsibility” as bringing “the harmony and happiness” to Earth as much of her imagery appears satanic and literally iconoclastic. Cerebot (artist Raul Gonzalez), a wooden automaton, used to be a human and now serves a robot butler of sorts to the board of directors of the company that made him this way. This serves his lifeline goal “to better serve [his]community and eventually the world.” His work ties theMiracle5 together more than any of the other artists as he depicts each of them together in nearly mural-sized drawings and paintings.
ORTEGACY (artist Dave Ortega), another robot in the collective, is seeking to save the planet by battling the humans who have destroyed it. His work focuses on animation, but only single animation cells comprise most of his work in the gallery. They reference animation as it developed over different periods of the 20th century. Similarly, Boutet Lobsterclaw references comic book illustration, but draws from more obscure sources and relies on anthropomorphic shapes to fill out large canvases. The images he creates have a subtle creepiness, as if you were staring at a small nondescript square of an R. Crumb drawing.
Their art may be bound by its media and the gallery walls, but their whimsicality seems to stretch those boundaries. I admire the work of Miracle5 and I find its playfulness refreshing. It is the show’s creativity which brings its greatest successes, and though it may be difficult to draw parallels between the individual artists, the show’s breadth enhances what you can experience from each work.
“¡ATTACK! ” is on view until February 24th at the Rhys Gallery, located at 40 Fay Street, H112, Boston, MA
All images are courtesy of the artists and Rhys Gallery