We are a society driven by celebrity. We are held captive by the “star” factor we imagine we see before us in everyone from the people we elect to public office to our sports stars, singers and actors.
Super heroes, while obviously different from people in real life, are held in similar esteem as the celebrities we hold dear. There is something approachable about these pretend fantastic people that feels out of reach and relatable all at the same time. It is that relatability that makes the worlds of our superheroes so viable and successful.
“Marvelocity: The Art of Alex Ross,” on view at the Canton Museum of Art, is an exhibit of over 50 works that highlights the life and career of what many consider to be the most skilled artist of his genre. Using a photorealistic style, Ross has illustrated many characters, including Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Storm from the X-Men, the Avengers, Black Panther and others.
It is the artist skill at a photorealistic style that helps to make this exhibit so approachable. It is also the choice to include work made by the artist while he was growing up that helps transform this exhibition into something that informs you and clues you in on Ross’s love for his chosen subject matter and how it has developed and changed throughout his lifetime.
The curators of this exhibit chose to include not only drawing and creations from the artist’s childhood, but also a smattering of storyboard and rough sketches through the entirety of the show. This important choice offers us an opportunity to better understand the artistic process and to see firsthand the amount of work and effort it takes to develop the such a refined style.
Because of his style, Ross has been compared to the artist Norman Rockwell. Looking through this exhibit, it’s easy to see why, though Rockwell often made cutting commentary through his compositions and sometimes would show off his ability to paint in other styles through his chosen subject matter. That type of artistic decision making is not on display here. However, what is on display Is a unique ability to create compositions that are full of movement and detail all at the same time — a skill that is too often overlooked or at the very least taken for granted.
“Dr. Strange, Marvel City Cover” is a gouache that is a close up of the doctor, his hands, face and amulet. In the painting, the subject is holding his hands up, casting a spell with his cape flying up directly behind him. The painting is done in a warm golden colors with purples and reds. The work is also made in stunning detail. It’s as if you can hear the sound of the subjects clothes and the swirling wind that is causing Dr. Strange to appear the way he does. It’s this type of “exactness” that assists in telling the stories the artists is painting about and also contributes to making this collection of works more transportive.
“Falcon,” another gouache, features the character who is best known for being part of a series of Captain America movies. Falcon is also the first African American mainstream comic book superhero. In this painting, they are flying through the air with a such serious look of concentration on their face it approaches a grimace. Hands are stretched out in front of them and the blue sky and clouds are featured behind them in such a way that you get a sense of the movement and speed of the character as he flies. This is a thoughtfully done work that exudes beauty, confidence and the general personality of this character.
“Prince Namor The Sub-Mariner” is a painting of an important historical Marvel character that was introduced in 1939. This character is the mutant son of a human sea captain and a princess of the mythical undersea kingdom of Atlantis. In this painting, the artist has chosen to do a close up on the face of the character. Here we get Ross’s interpretation of the characters features, stern gaze and pointy ears. We also get a sense of the “attitude” of Namor, who has also been referred to and used as a short tempered anti-hero, though “basically good natured.”
“Marvelocity: The Art of Alex Ross” is at its core an approachable exhibit that all lovers of realistic painting and superhero universe/universes should enjoy. Ross’s talent for making work that depicts characters and their personalities in a photorealistic way is impressive and worthy of this opportunity to see it.
Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected].
Exhibit: “The Art of Alex Ross” through March 6
Place: Canton Museum of
Art, 1001 Market Ave. N., Canton
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $8 for adults and $6 for seniors, students and military veterans. Children 12 or younger are free. Admission is free to all on Thursdays and the first Friday of every month
Note: Visitors are required to wear masks
More information: Visit https://www.cantonart.org or call 330-453-7666
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Art review: Alex Ross exhibit is truly marvelous