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Review: Comic Book Diplomacy and The Lies We Believe 

D. Eric Bookhardt on new works by Christopher Saucedo and Ayo Scott

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Beyond airplanes and atom bombs, few things symbolize 20th-century America more than comic book superheroes. Just as ancient Rome believed in all-powerful deities like Apollo and Minerva, kids in midcentury America — often called a new Roman empire — believed in Superman and Wonder Woman. The characters' appeal knew no borders, and the vintage examples found by artist Christopher Saucedo on his travels were often boundlessly surreal, so he began to subtly modify them to enhance their idiosyncratic qualities and make them his own. Their multicultural appeal is seen in a poster-size blowup of a 1954 Superhombre comic book cover (pictured) with Superman, Batman and Robin grinning luridly. Their Mexican wrestler-style facial features indicate early globalism produced its share of forgeries, but even the official editions yielded bizarre cultural hybrids. Saucedo's modifications often employ minimal and strategic touches like his sometimes-embroidered compass symbols of the sort used to indicate north on maps, emphasizing how disorienting these globalized superheroes can be. In a 1978 Hispanic version of Wonder Woman — La Mujer Maravilla — the Twin Towers loom over a New York City apocalypse scene long before 9/11, and while this entire series is entertainingly surreal, it obviously doesn't hurt to start with such bizarre source materials.

In Ayo Scott's solo show at Octavia Gallery, mythic beings and modern technology populate a dramatic array of collages and digital drawings. His most cogent collages include Study of a Westbank Smile, a Mona Lisa with an African spirit mask for a head posed pensively by the river amid wisps of cigarette smoke. His more rollicking digital drawings feature related carnivalesque mash-ups like pixelated riffs on Robert Colescott, but the whole show represents an eloquently cohesive evolution of Scott's complex vision, another step in his self-described ruminations on this city's "syncretic tensions" and "consumerism and technology's interaction with the transcendent." — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT


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