Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Superheroes Take Over the Met

In recent years, spring and summer have become the seasons belonging to the superhero. Year after year, Hollywood studios release films featuring old favorites like Spider-Man and the X-Men. This year, we already have Iron Man creating a buzz in theaters, and later on we'll have Batman returning in the highly-anticipated The Dark Knight.

Superheroes are everywhere and as a result, they're now being taken a little more seriously in other aspects of our society, including the art world. And last week, a special exhibition honoring the influence of superheroes opened in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was able to check out the exhibition, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, over the weekend. While it was a little smaller than I expected it would be, it was still a neat experience and I'm glad I had a chance to see the exhibition.

The exhibition, brought about by the support of Giorgio Armani and Condé Nast, aims to reveal the connections between fashion and the superhero. Basically, as the Met's Web site puts it, "the superhero serves as the ultimate metaphor for fashion and its ability to empower and transform the human body."

The folks at the Met organized the exhibition by themes, which include "The Aerodynamic Body," "The Armored Body," and "The Mutant Body." Visitors get the chance to view actual superhero costumes from films alongside clothing designed by the likes of Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and the late Gianni Versace.

The exhibition starts off with Superman, showing us how the "S" logo on his chest is really not all that different from the logos we see on brand-name clothing. But the coolest part for all the geeks visiting the exhibition is the opportunity to view a mannequin dressed as Clark Kent transform into Superman. The Superman costume seen here is the same one worn by Christopher Reeve back in the 1970s.

"The Graphic Body" portion of the exhibition revolves around Spider-Man. One gets to see two of the Spidey costumes from the recent films, along with designer gowns that really draw upon the spirit of this superhero due to the inclusion of a "web" design. Sidenote: the Spider-Man costumes seen in the films really do have that interesting rubbery appearance. It seems that CGI hasn't played much of a part in enhancing the costume's look.

There are of course, quite a few more things that I could mention, but I'd prefer not to turn this entry into a laundry list. So I'll just mention a few more interesting aspects of the exhibition. "The Mutant Body" was a neat display, featuring gowns that contained some animal-like elements. I was also able to take a look at the application used as the Mystique "costume" in the X-Men movies — and honestly, I can't imagine what a pain it must have been to both apply and remove it from one's body.

And last but not least, I'd like to mention two things that were personal highlights for me — getting to see the new batsuit worn by Christian Bale in the upcoming The Dark Knight, along with Michelle Pfeiffer's catsuit from Batman Returns. The former was just really neat to see, especially since the costume involves some redesigning that means live-action Batman should have less of a stiff neck when we see him in the movies. But looking at it in person also helped me understand why so many actors have had issues wearing the many incarnations of the batsuit to begin with. Meanwhile Pfeiffer's catsuit, which also shows how tiny the actress must have been while filming, is practically a relic at this stage. Slightly battered and falling apart at the seams, it really is something that belongs in a museum even though it's not that old to begin with.

All in all, the exhibition was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. So if you're the least bit interested in superheroes, fashion or both, and find yourself at the Met between now and early September, I'd recommend checking it out.

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