Spiderman as fine art subject

June, 2013: I went to a number of contemporary art fairs in New York City this past spring, including The Scope Art Fair, The Fountain Art Fair, and The Armory Show, and while I saw a lot of great art, there was one particular theme, or rather subject matter, that seemed to permeate the fairs: Spiderman! Using Spiderman in fine art is not a new thing, as MoMA has a Spiderman painting by Sigmar Polke dating from 1974 in their permanent collection (see below, with detail below right). Roy Lichtenstein preceded Polke in making fine art out of comics, deriving quite a bit of his work from the comic book artist Tony Abruzzo. But it was the abundance of Spiderman-based art works at these 2013 art fairs that surprised me, especially considering that they were made by six different artists. I wonder what it is that causes so many artists to be inspired by Spiderman? Let's take a look at some of the Spiderman-inspired art that I saw at these art fairs.

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Below: Sigmar Polke, Spiderman, 1971-74, 9' 3 1/4" x 10' 3" cut-and-pasted painted papers on canvas. From the permanent collection at MoMA.

Spiderman, 1974, by Sigmar Polke at MoMA

Below left we have "Peter Parker," a painting using oil and alkyds on wood by artist Simon Monk. It was one of a series of paintings collectively called "Secret Identity," all featuring superheroes - or perhaps superhero action figures - in plastic bags hanging on hooks like this one. Some of the other superheroes portrayed by Monk included Superman, Batman, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk, among others.

Below right we have a painting titled "Self Portrait as Spiderman," by Andrew Wodzianski. This is one of a series of paintings by Wodzianski that depict a person wearing both the mask and a related t-shirt of the same comic character, another of which was the Joker.

painting of Spiderman by Simon Monk

Spiderman painting by Andrew Wodzianski

At The Scope Art Fair I saw this photograph by Dulce Pinzón, (below left) from a series titled "The Real Story of the Superheroes." This series is about Mexican immigrant workers in New York who work extraordinary hours in extreme conditions for very low wages which are saved at great cost and sacrifice and sent to families and communities in Mexico.

So this is not a staged photograph, but rather a real window washer who dresses as Spiderman! This particular photograph is titled: "Bernabe Mendez from the State of Guerrero works as a professional window cleaner in New York. He sends 500 dollars a month."

This next Spiderman art work (below right) from the Scope Art Fair was quite fascinating, and I regret to say that the artist's name wasn't listed on the wall and I didn't get his or her name - so if you know it, please send it to us so that we can correct this. At any rate, it's a sculptural piece, with Peter Parker pulling up a corner of his mask as he's looking at a magazine. But as you step closer to the box where the Parker figure is standing, you can see down into the box where a cluttered mini-version of Spiderman's apartment is recreated and filled with books. The artist used a mirror on one side of the box's interior in order to create a sense of great depth in the apartment.

Spiderman window washer photograph by Dulce Pinzon

sculpture showing Spiderman standing atop of his apartment, seen at the Scope Art Fair

Lastly, we have two more Spiderman-inspired art works. Below left we have "City Cash," by an artist with the name "Speedy Graphito," and it's a hand-painted silkscreen showing Spiderman carrying a can of spray paint, and surrounded by graffiti.

Below right, we have a mixed media on canvas titled "Change," by an artist with the name "Solo." The story being depicted here is a bit mysterious, since we can't see the person's face; is it Peter Parker, since he's wearing the Spiderman costume and has a camera hanging from his neck? Or does the artist "Solo," whose graffiti tag can be seen on the wall at left and on the hat on the dresser, dress up as Spiderman when he goes out to do graffiti?

Spiderman art by Speedy Graphito

Spiderman art by Solo, aka Flavio Carbonaro

At any rate, I enjoyed all of the Spiderman art, but just wondered: how does Marvel Comics feel about all of this?

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