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I Have the Power

He-Man Hits Hard

“By the power of Grayskull… I am He-Man!!” It has probably been quite some time since most of you have heard these words. Around twenty-five years, most likely. But He-Man is back, along with many of his co-stars, in Double Punch Gallery’s “I Have the Power” show. With over thirty artists, this show packs a nostalgic punch.

For those of you too young or too old to have heard of He-Man, aka Prince Adam, He-Man was an action figure who also starred in the “Masters of the Universe” cartoon series that began airing in September of 1983, surviving two solid seasons. Upon holding aloft the Sword of Power, Prince Adam would cry the familiar phrase and become He-Man, while his faint-hearted green tiger, Cringer, became the ferocious Battlecat.

Battling Skeletor and the Evil Horde was He-Man’s main occupation, which he carried out with remarkable aplomb. Various other characters such as the sorceress Teela, Man-at-Arms, Tri-Klops, Man-E-Faces, Orko, and, of course, He-Man’s sister, Princess Adora/She-Ra, populated the cartoon, with She-Ra ultimately earning her own series after “Masters of the Universe” went off-air. All of these characters and more make their long-awaited re-appearances in “I Have the Power,” giving children of the 80’s yet another whiff of the increasingly popular decade.

It is a real trip to see the works in this show; it set me right back on the old navy plaid couch in the family room from when I was…well…younger. Among the works are both more traditional renditions of the characters, as well as some pretty imaginative re-castings. And while they mostly tend towards the comic book-esque in terms of style, the variations in media and re-castings of the familiar images shows great breadth of talent and unique personal approaches to the subject matter.

On the more nostalgic side is Ryan Snook’s trilogy of altered photographs entitled, “Li’l Mekanek", “Li’l He-Man", and “Li’l Battlecat". Snook has here captured every child’s dream of being one of these great heroes, superimposing simplified distinguishing physical characteristics of the above figures onto an old school photo of a young boy (perhaps Snook himself?). How many kids didn’t want to be He-Man for Halloween back in 1983?

In keeping with the school picture theme, Roque Ballestros has created five miniature portraits entitled, “Evil Horde Yearbook Series", depicting face shots of five monster members of the Evil Horde in bright, bold colors with maximum cartoon creep factor.

Some pieces, however, go in the complete opposite direction, giving more adult themes to these familiar characters and challenging our childhood perceptions. Joshua Clements’ untitled drawing gives viewers He-Man as he may have looked in his later years, still wearing his fur bikini and boots yet severely overweight -- the Sword of Power in one hand and a burger in the other. Orko, He-Man’s sidekick and the comic relief of the cartoon series, floats close behind He-Man, holding mustard and ketchup.

Mark Damrel’s “Man-E-Faces” gets a little more challenging, depicting Man-E-Faces, painted with simple strokes on wood, imagining a smashing picture of a young David Hasselhoff. My personal favorite, however, has got to be Katie Bacigalupi’s “Princess of Power". The lone female artist in the show re-casts She-Ra as a blow-up doll in the Princess of Power’s headpiece, grasping her Sword of Protection as amorphous gold blobs decorate the deep blue background like giant stars. Women’s Studies majors will have a lot of fun with this one…

However, poking fun at these long-extinct action figures is not the only thing going on in the show. Some of the pieces are just downright beautiful, such as Rey Ortega’s “Rokkar Waits for Stonedar", in which a massive figure sits in an incongruously contemplative pose as he overlooks a landscape of jagged peaks. Somehow reminiscent of the great landscape paintings of the 19th century Romantic period, the work manages to combine pop culture images of the 80s with a sense of being rooted in the classical tradition of art.

The show is small; the works are not elegantly displayed; the gallery is the upstairs of an admittedly cool toy store. Yet, seeing these icons of my childhood re-framed by contemporary artists is fascinating and casts a new light on old friends.

Double Punch Gallery
Runs through July 19th
Admission: Free