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Indepth Arts News:

"Hero/Antihero: What Heroes Are Made Of"
2002-12-21 until 2003-08-17
Seattle Art Museum
Seattle, WA, USA

his winter the Seattle Art Museum will explore the concept of heroism in a provocative installation entitled Hero/Anti-Hero, on view on SAM’s fourth floor, December 21, 2002 – August 17, 2003. Western culture historically reveres heroes as larger-than-life politicians, religious leaders, athletes, artists, and the collective accomplishments of anonymous workers; but for many observers these same figures may be controversial, representing oppressive power, the superficial cult of celebrity, or distasteful political beliefs.

Hero/Anti-Hero will examine a wide range of personalities including the Roman Emperor Claudius, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, and Ulysses S. Grant; characters who have inspired dreams, ambivalence, and even hostility. Among the artists represented are Gary Winogrand, Ross Palmer Beecher, Walker Evans, Andy Warhol, and several non-western artists whose names are unknown. Approximately 30 objects drawn primarily from the permanent collection with selected loans comprise the exhibition. Hero/Anti-Hero is a counterpoint to two of the Museum’s upcoming exhibitions that in part deal with the concept of heroism, George Washington: A National Treasure, on view in the adjacent gallery March 21 – July 20, 2003, and Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence, in the special exhibition gallery, Feb. 6 – May 4, 2003.

Using examples of major figures from several cultures, Hero/Anti-Hero will explore how the reputations of past prominent individuals whose stories have been transformed to reinforce or alter their heroic status. For example, a young Japanese prince named Shotoku Taishi (574-622), after a painless delivery is said to have spoken as an adult while still an infant. He assumed political power at 19 and created Japan’s first constitution. As an adult, Shotoku was committed to spreading Buddhism in Japan. Through a popular revival in recent years, Shotoku is now starring in two Japanese comic books that have given him new character traits to suit contemporary tastes. The evolution of Shotoku’s imagery exemplifies the concept of Hero/Anti-Hero.

Hero/Anti-Hero is part of an ongoing series of exhibitions highlighting the permanent collection that complement special exhibitions at SAM. Pamela McClusky, Curator of Art of Africa and Oceania, and Chiyo Ishikawa, Chief Curator of Collections/Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, co-curated the exhibition.

Garry Winogrand
United States, 1928-1984
Detail, Muhammad Ali--Oscar Bonavena Press Conference, New York City, 1970
Gelatin silver print, 12 1/2 x 18 1/2 in.
Purchased with funds from Pacific Northwest Bell,
the Photography Council, the Polaroid Foundation,
Mark Abrahamson, and the National Endowment for the Arts, 83.54.10
Photo: Paul Macapia

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