The original terracotta warriors and horses of Xi’an, China are over 2,300 years old, even if their existence was only discovered in the 1970s. That means they occupy a curious place in the culture. They’re important historic artifacts, but they also spent a good 23 centuries lost and buried before they were unearthed in 1974 by farmers and excavated by archaeologists. That unusual role makes them a subject of a lot of fascination for artists around the world–and that includes American sculptor Lizabeth Eva Rossof, whose Xi’an-America Warriors series offers a new take on the terracotta army: namely, one with the heads of Batman, Spider-Man, Bart Simpson, Mickey Mouse, and Shrek.
According to Rossof’s artist statement, the series is designed to “playfully explore the concerns of American media’s global influence, and China’s industry of counterfeiting the copyrighted properties held by said media.” In other words, if there’s a tension between the fact that The Simpsons, Shrek, and Batman are so fully a part of the global consciousness that running off bootleg versions of them for a global audience is a profitable exercise in China, what better way to explore that is there than the medium of terracotta sculpture?
Whether Rossof’s intentions speak to you or not, though, the statues themselves are fascinating pieces of work. Mickey’s head looks good perched atop a terracotta emperor’s body, and the textures of Spider-Man’s mask are so well-suited to the medium that it’s a wonder it was conceived on pencil and paper. At the very least, if you need an army to guard your thoroughly-Americanized necropolis, you could do a lot worse.