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Kresge Gallery to feature exhibition by Chad Penner

The Kresge Gallery at Lyon College will feature the art exhibition “American Exceptionalism and Other Nonsense” by Chad Penner from Sept. 20 through Nov. 1.

Penner’s work explores the relationship between the idea of American exceptionalism and America’s intimate relationship with and affinity toward violence. The artist allegorizes these concepts using popular superheroes, such as Superman, Captain America and Wonder Woman, which function as metaphors for an idealized America as a global “superpower.”

“Current events and the present sociopolitical climate are the main factors driving my work,” Penner says in his artist statement.

“The superhero is an American phenomenon that encapsulates the idealistic notions of American exceptionalism, along with the nation’s time-honored tradition of resolution through violence.”

Penner worked with charcoal, pastels and chalk on paper to create two distinct series of works. His early works are dark, atmospheric, monumental drawings that depict violent acts between superheroes and victims, examining the historical or social implications of violence outside of the act itself.

His recent works take on a more satirical tone by combining contemporary political figures with superhero costumes in charcoal and pastel portraits.

“The juxtaposition of these politicians and their ill-fitting costumes implies a failure to live up to the heroics status to which contemporary society often holds them,” Penner said.

Scroll through the online gallery below and check out Penner’s full artist statement.

A video interview with Penner will be released soon in place of the traditional Artist Talk.


The Blind Leading | 2020
Chad Penner
Charcoal, pastel and chalk on paper
36 x 24 inches



McConnell: The Spinelight Knight, the Cowed Crusader | 2019
Chad Penner
Charcoal and pastel on paper
24 x 20 inches



America the Blameless | 2018
Chad Penner
Charcoal and pastel on paper
74 x 42 inches



Manifest Destiny | 2017
​​​​​​​Chad Penner
Charcoal and pastel on paper
105 x 69 inches