Pillbox

Heroes & Villains conquer Warhol museum

Ross has a collection of superhero mask models, including Spiderman and Iron Man. (credit: David Chang/) Ross has a collection of superhero mask models, including Spiderman and Iron Man. (credit: David Chang/) Ross is praised for his realistic, detailed portrayal of superheroes. (credit: David Chang/) Ross is praised for his realistic, detailed portrayal of superheroes. (credit: David Chang/) Ross, whose work is currently exhibited at the Andy Warhol Museum, has painted comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics since the 1990s. (credit: David Chang/) Ross, whose work is currently exhibited at the Andy Warhol Museum, has painted comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics since the 1990s. (credit: David Chang/)

At first glance when you step off the elevator on the seventh floor of the Andy Warhol Museum, your eyes will widen. You have arrived at 5,500 square feet of gallery space decked out in bright blue, red, and gold. The likenesses of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and a plethora of other Marvel and DC characters that are iconic heroes of American childhood adorn the rooms. A viewer feels like he or she is looking into a separate world, as though these characters are part of their country’s physical history, captured in beautifully detailed gouache paintings and pencil drawings.

These glorious pieces are the work of Alex Ross, an artist who revolutionized the comic book industry. In [ITAL]Heroes and Villains[ITAL], the first-ever museum exhibit of his work, visitors can see over 134 pieces by the artist, spanning from crayon drawings by a 4-year-old Ross to the huge superhero and villain portraits by the matured artist. Ross is extremely inspired by the works of Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell — thus, work from these artists, along with several other artists, is exhibited alongside Ross’ own. These inspirations are sometimes illustrated in the form of a pseudo-series of a character. For example, depictions of Uncle Sam can be seen in the work of Rockwell, Ross, and Warhol, highlighting the interplay of these artists and creating an interesting distinction between their styles.

The single portraits of heroes and villains appear to transcend the world that we live in. They illustrate the intense struggles of power, loyalty, and achievement that are common in the world of comic books. In this way, Ross has achieved something unique: He has epitomized the internal conflicts of the everyday man into a super-world of imagination and glory. He has also illustrated the darker forms of human nature, represented through bitter portraits of villains like the Joker. Alex Ross perfectly depicts the underlying emotions and disturbances found in these characters as if they were drawn from true observation.

The rooms that feature these depictions also include several glass table displays of old Marvel comics and Ross' sketches. There are cases containing his collection of the Batman, Iron Man, and Spiderman mask models, as well as a television playing old superhero shows. Perhaps the most impressive works shown by Alex Ross are the large horizontal group portraits, one of all the heroes, and a similar piece depicting the villains, much like a strange yearbook photo. These extremely detailed pieces reveal the interplay between characters and allow them to step into our own lives, a truly amazing feat that must be experienced in person.

The Alex Ross exhibit will run until Jan. 8, and is free to enter with a Carnegie Mellon ID. Whether you have a passion for comics or not, this display will awe any viewer.