Batman 2

image for Batman 2
Exhibition Label
Mark Newport knits costumes for superheroes such as Batman, Superman, and Spiderman. These protagonists first appeared in comic books and were further popularized in cinema and television, the media that brought theater to the masses. Some of Newport's other subjects include fictionalized heroes of the American West, such as Rawhide Kid and Two Gun Kid, and characters of his own invention, such as Sweaterman. Knitting is more readily associated with craft than high art, so Newport's lowbrow process, emphasized by his use of acrylic yarn, affirms his message about the influence and pervasiveness of the popular.
A superhero's sleek suit generally functions as a shield from injury, but the only protection that Newport's homey outfits offer is from the cold. They underscore the false security promised by fantastic beings. Far from skintight, the suits droop and sag. When displayed on a hanger they are lifeless, shroudlike vestments that seem to mock the implied physical power of the familiar emblems and color schemes. Though the artist creates them to his own proportions, their misshapenness indicates that they will fit no one well and everyone adequately. This is evident in Newport's prints, which are visual narratives about characters wearing his costumes. The artist sometimes knits in public while wearing one of his knitted suits. He performs in the everyday arena transformed by his dress; the most ordinary locales have the potential to be his stage.
Batman 2 was featured in the museum's exhibition and book Staged Stories: Renwick Craft Invitational 2009.
Staged Stories: Renwick Craft Invitational 2009 exhibition label
The sagging form of Mark Newport's Batman 2 is a far cry from Hollywood's contemporary depiction of the hero. Newport's use of knitting, a technique traditionally associated with women's work, is representative of a growing number of male artists challenging gender stereotypes through the fiber medium. The costume's ridiculous proportions and limp posture undermine the character's hyper-masculine associations and expose the insecurities these unrealistic ideals perpetuate, even as they suggest the possibility of a more vulnerable male role model.
Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery, 2019
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Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department
Renwick Gallery
2005
Object number
2010.20
Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Richard T. Evans Fund
Artist
Mark Newport, born Amsterdam, NY 1964
Topic
Cartoon\comics\Batman
Medium
acrylic and buttons
Dimensions
76 x 26 x 6 in. (193.0 x 66.0 x 15.2 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Restrictions & Rights
© 2005, Mark Newport
Type
Decorative Arts-Fiber
Crafts