(STOCKBRIDGE, Mass.) — Acclaimed comic book artist Alex Ross, whose work has appeared in print, on film, on album covers and in video games, is the subject of a retrospective exhibition opening at the Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday, November 10, 2012, and running through February 24, 2013. The show, Heroes & Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross, will present a comprehensive look at the career of the artist who has been called “the Norman Rockwell of the comics world.” Organized by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pa., the exhibition features more than 130 works, including paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures from Ross’ personal collection.
Known for his unique, photorealistic renderings of such beloved superheroes as Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, Alex Ross helped revitalize the comic book industry, capturing a new generation of readers, and bridging the gap between comic and fine art. “Heroes & Villains” is the first museum exhibition celebrating the art of Ross. Spanning the artist’s life and career, the exhibition features rarely-seen works — from his early crayon drawing of Spider-Man, created at the age of four, to his groundbreaking work for such books as “Marvels,” “Justice,” and “Kingdom Come.”
“Heroes & Villains” reveals Ross’ personal and artistic goal to redefine comic books for a new generation. The exhibition also pays homage to the artist’s inspirations, including original work by his mother, Lynette Ross (who was also a successful illustrator), Frank Bez, Andrew Loomis, and Norman Rockwell. Also featured in the exhibition are works by Andy Warhol, a huge comic book fan, including his “Myths” series, which mirrors many of the subjects depicted in Ross’ work.
“Norman Rockwell Museum is thrilled to be able to present the work of Alex Ross,” says museum director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. “Just as millions of readers in the 20th century were introduced to the world of art courtesy of Norman Rockwell, that tradition continues today thanks to Ross’ beautifully painted illustrations, which combine photographic realism and imaginative storytelling.”
“Norman Rockwell has been one of the greatest influences on my art, and it is an enormous honor to be featured in the museum dedicated to his work,” notes Alex Ross. “I have always looked upon Rockwell’s style as the peak of what one could hope to achieve artistically. The artist’s realistic execution and eye for composition are things I aspire to, knowing that he performed a quality of work that isn’t easily achieved. It is a major career achievement for me to have my work in company with his.”
A members opening event for the exhibition will be held on Saturday, November 10, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., with a rare appearance by Alex Ross, who will also be conducting a book signing during the evening event.
Born in Portland, Oregon in 1970 and raised in Lubbock, Texas, Alex Ross grew up in a world of colorful, painted images. Ross’s mother Lynette was a successful illustrator in the 1940s and 1950s, the same time that Norman Rockwell was becoming a household name.
At just three years of age, Ross was drawing TV commercials from memory. The following year, he began drawing images of his favorite superheroes — Superman, Captain Marvel, and Plastic Man. By the time he was 13, he was drawing and scripting comic books. At the age of 17, Ross went on to study painting at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where he was influenced by Salvador Dali’s hyperrealism, as well as by such classic American illustrators as Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker.
Ross began his professional career as a storybook artist for an advertising agency. At the age of 19 Ross received his first comic assignment from Marvel Comics – a comic titled “Terminator: The Burning Earth.” Five years later, Ross created the illustrations and cover art for “Marvels,” a full feature comic book, co-written by Kurt Busiek. Ross’s photorealistic gouache technique showcases superheroes and villains such as Spider-Man, the Human Torch, Captain America and Galactus. His sophomore project, “Kingdom Come,” is a comic in which an alternate DC Universe is filled with aging superhero forces including Superman, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern, who come out of retirement to fight modern super humans.
Ross won the Comic Buyer’s Guide Award for Favorite Painter seven times in a row, resulting in the retirement of the category.
Exhibition-Related Programs and Events
Super Exhibition Opening
Saturday, November 10, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Commentary at 7 p.m. with a signing with the artist to follow
Meet Alex Ross, a true master of American comics who has revitalized the classic superhero by creating powerful, empathetic portrayals of favorite characters. Works from “Marvels” and “Kingdom Come,” from the artist’s early career, and paintings and drawings from recent projects like “Justice,” “Flash Gordon,” and “Green Hornet” are testaments of his extraordinary skill. Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Andrew Loomis are among the artist’s most significant inspirations. Members free, guests $20. Join Alex Ross before the opening at 5:30 p.m., for an exclusive hour-long, behind-the-scenes tour of the exhibition. Members $30, guests $40 (includes reception).
Mini-Con Comics Event
A Festival of Comics
Saturday, November 17 from 1 to 5 p.m.
Celebrate the art of comics during this exciting afternoon of artist talks and demonstrations, workshops, signings, comic book appraisals, and tours of “Heroes & Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross.” Artists scheduled to appear include Howard Cruse (“Stuck Rubber Baby”) and Jack Purcell (DC, Marvel, “Heavy Metal”). Come dressed as you favorite superhero and receive half-off admission. Free with Museum admission, members free.
Family Festival Day
Superheroes! A Comics Celebration
Saturday, November 24, 1 to 4 p.m.
Meet favorite superheroes and design your own during this fun-filled afternoon of tours, art activities, storytelling and more. Come dressed as your favorite comic book character! Free with Museum admission, members free.
Honoring Our Hometown Heroes
POSTPONED until January 2013 (Date TBA)
What does it mean to be a hero in the real world? Join us as we honor the true superheroes in our region—from police and firefighters to veterans, medical professionals, and other community caregivers. Personal commentary, festive refreshments, and tours of “Heroes & Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross” will be part of this special evening. Free.
School Vacation Week Programs
Wednesday, December 26 through Sunday, December 30, 1 to 5 p.m.
Envision your own story lines and design unique comic book characters during this lively series of drop-in art workshops inspired by the work of comic book master, Alex Ross. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and other favorite superheroes will be on view. Free with Museum admission, members free.
Comics in the Classroom
Saturday, January 12, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Explore curriculum-based connections to comics and creative applications for the classroom in this daylong immersion for educators inspired by “Heroes & Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross.” Dr. William H. Foster, III of Naugatuck Valley Community College will explore the changing image of African Americans in comics, and Dr. James Kimble of Seton Hall University will discuss the prevalence of comics as domestic propaganda during World War II. PDPs are available. $30, $24 members.
The Business of Art
Careers in Comics
Saturday, February 16, 1 to 4 p.m.
Thinking of a career in comics? Enjoy an inside look at the field today with professional comic book artists, who will discuss the narrative, artistic, and technical skills required, and explore the range of opportunities available for aspiring creators—from writing, drawing and inking, to lettering and publishing. Bring along five examples of your artwork to discuss. $25, $20 members.
School Vacation Week Programs
Drawing and Painting from the (Illustration) Superheroes
Monday, February 18 through Saturday, February 23, 1 to 5 p.m.
Explore the art of illustration greats Norman Rockwell and Alex Ross, and design your own superheroes inspired by the works on view. These drop-in workshops for young artists of all ages will encourage experimentation with media and techniques. Free with Museum admission, members free.
About Norman Rockwell Museum
Norman Rockwell Museum holds the largest and most significant collection of art and archival materials relating to the life and work of Norman Rockwell. The Museum also preserves, interprets, and exhibits a growing collection of original illustration art by noted American illustrators, from historical to contemporary. The Norman Rockwell Museum Art Collection and Norman Rockwell Archive inspire a vibrant year-round exhibition program, national traveling exhibitions, and arts and humanities programs that engage diverse audiences. The Museum’s collections, which are made accessible worldwide, are a comprehensive resource relating to Norman Rockwell and the art of illustration, the role of published imagery in society, and the American twentieth century.
Since its inception, the Norman Rockwell Museum has explored the impact of illustrated images and their role in shaping and reflecting our world through changing exhibitions, publications, and programs. Dedication to a deepened understanding of the art of illustration has led to the formation of the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies. The first of its kind in the nation, this research institute supports sustained scholarship and establishes the Norman Rockwell Museum’s leadership in the vanguard of preservation and interpretation relating to this important aspect of American visual culture.
Norman Rockwell Museum is located on 36 park-like acres in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Rockwell’s hometown for the last 25 years of his life. The Museum is open year-round; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. From May through October, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; from November through April, hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Rockwell’s studio is open May through October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Museum admission is $16, $14.50 for seniors, $10 for students, $5 for kids, and teens 6 to 18, and free for Museum member, active military personnel, and children 5 and under.