Sunday, November 18, 2007

Spiderwoman and Modern Painters



My partner Sara is going to art school for her MFA in painting and she has had this April 2006 issue of Modern Painters: International Arts and Culture magazine lying around our house for ages. I randomly flipped through it the other day and this advert was on the very first page.

The caption for the advert says "Andreas Hofer. This Island Earth. March 31 to May 6, 2006. Hauser and Wirth London." Andreas Hofer is surely not the Tyrolean military hero, or the 17th century Austrian composer, thank you Wikipedia. I know about the film This Island Earth from Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Motion Picture. I do not know if the artist wants me to think of the film.

The image is of a "face" in a superhero mask. The mask, and the attached hair (white? -- not the current Spiderwoman's), is superimposed like a cut out over the "face." The "face" is a drawn map of north-east Africa and near-by places.

I knew it was a superhero mask, and I thought it was Spiderwoman's mask, but I thought that that was a pretty obscure and specific source for a contemporary artist to be going for (the audience surely would not know where this was from), and I thought I was maybe wrong. After picking up a New Avengers trade on a whim and now being SURE that is Spiderwoman's mask I am moved to ask the Whedonesque question:

Yeahbuhwhat?

10 comments:

Kyle said...

I think the hair may be Spider-Woman's, but from the Bendis, Reed and Luna Brother's "Origin" mini. I think the hair and mask are from the same source, and the map below is the only foreign element.

I could be wrong, admittedly.

Kyle said...

Turns out it's from the cover to issue 3:

http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/news/MarvelFebruary2006/SWORIG003_cov.jpg

Geoff Klock said...

Kyle: wow, thanks. That's awesome and fast. But what on earth is going on in this image?

Kyle said...

This blurb about a current show is maybe quite revealing. It talks about Hofer's odd choices of source, and even explicitly mentions American comics.

The last paragraph seems(I think, I'm no expert on art, and that paragraph just confuses me) to say that the point of Hofer's work is that there is no one interpretation, and the he's trying to be confusing.

David Golding said...

Australian artist Howard Arkley (1951-1999) used cut-outs of Carmine Infantino's Spider-woman in a picture called Suicide (1988) - alas, I can't find you an image of it on the internet. His use was almost unrecognisable, so it was weird to see the curator of a recent retrospective call attention to it. I guess there's just something about Spider-woman.

Christian said...

Is this even legal? Passing someone's work off as your own with a couple of alterations? Does the Luna Brothers receive credit? Or is this another case of Lichtenstein'ish douchebaggery?

neilshyminsky said...

kyle: I think the idea is to create an image that doesn't obviously mean anything. (Which can be hard to do - and causes me to think of some L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poems.) I'd have to see more to confirm that, but that's the impression I get, anyway.

christian: It's protected by free speech, provided you can prove that you have some defensible critical or artistic objective in mind. (If it were a Disney image, though, they'd sue regardless.)

Jason Powell said...

I remember reading ten years ago about a theater company that called themselves "Spiderwoman Theatre," or something like that, getting into some legal battles with Marvel Comics over their name.

That's all I got.

Geoff Klock said...

Kyle -- I am going to copy and paste that blurb. Thanks for the link, and the research:

"Opening: 31 Oktober 2007, 7.30pm

Andreas Hofer has been developing a style of art which activates very different sources since the early 1990s. Some of these sources are generally acknowledged while others are dubious or even submerged. They range from American comic strips, German art and architecture dating back to the Naziera and the painting of Kazimir Malevich to the popular fascination with the world of dinosaurs and science fiction as well as premodern forms of image worship.

Andreas Hofer discovers in diverse media – including paintings, furniture, action figures and computer printouts – images conjuring up horror, amazement and heroes in an unpredictable manner leading to the present day. Attributing the same importance to jumble sale pictures as to icons of modern art and combining religious symbols with youthful fantasies, he operates on the edge of art and questions the fundamental principles of accepted values in the system of art.

In his subjective com-bination of motifs, Hofer stimulates various possible interpretations whose validity looks doubtful. Andreas Hofer withdraws from the one-dimensionality of individual systems of interpretation with the idea of an ‘end to grand narratives’ and creates a mysterious, pluralistic ‘world without end’ or ‘long tomorrow’, with no clear distinction between good and evil."

I feel like since October is spelled with a K and the website ends in ".de" there may be a translation problem here. But I have seen writing in art museums in English be just as bad so you never know. Later I may want to take a crack at this blurb in more detail -- maybe in another post.

I agree that this sentence:

"In his subjective com-bination of motifs, Hofer stimulates various possible interpretations whose validity looks doubtful."

does seem to be a complicated way of saying he is trying to be confusing, that he does not have an interpretation in mind at all.

Mitch said...

No legal trouble here- one painting that is altered (I think the percentage is something like 80%) is considered fair use. Bottom line, it would cost more in legal fees to go after this guy than could be won from any legal case. Also, if there was some royalty it would go to Marvel, not the Luna Bros.