Mark Newport makes goofy art about subjects that are anything but goofy.
He knits superhero costumes from the sort of overly bright, plastic-y acrylic yarn elderly ladies sew into afghans. Aquaman, Batman, Daredevil, Spider-Man, they're all here in his "Super Heroics" show at Arizona State University Art Museum.
At least their suits are here, hanging flaccidly from the walls, stretched larger than life-size by their own weight. They dangle, empty, waiting for someone to fill them, but no one can, and that's the point. The suits are outsized, over-the-top, suffocating in their head-to-toe swaddle. They are cable-knit versions of the unrealistic expectations our culture places on men, and they're nothing short of brilliant.
By using a girly skill to make an object that's the symbol of manly men with manly ways, Newport pokes holes in the conventional ideal of masculinity. His sewing/superhero mix works least in a series of comic book covers over which Newport has embroidered, and best in the suits, which speak eloquently about feeling like Peter Pan when you're supposed to be Superman. Pull one on and you still won't be able to leap tall gender roles with a single bound.
Newport does pull on the suits in photos and prints in the exhibition. In one he stands slump-shouldered as his wife zips him into a knit Daredevil suit that bags where it should bulge with muscle. Children's toys are scattered around him. Think fighting crime is tough? Try being a husband and father. That requires a man without fear.
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