Art Spiegelman is different than other artists whose work is considered at the height of the comics craft. He didn’t have a daily newspaper strip like Bill Watterson or Charles Shulz. Neither was he a pure writer like Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore, whose respective works have solidified their places in the comics (as opposed to comix) pantheon.
In the comix tradition, Spiegelman’s work is not innately commercial. Rather than fitting into an industry with a broad distribution and devoted customer base like traditional comic books or daily strips, Spiegelman’s art goes deep and tells stories, more often for adults, that are so compelling that their merit cannot be ignored. They aren’t really fantastical or cute. For his commitment to his vision and craftsmanship, it is fitting that his work be on exhibit in a museum of fine art.
I liked seeing how Spiegelman incorporated collage into his work and was impressed by how much care he puts constructing each panel. One goal of mine in the new year is to create more narrative work in addition to the standalone drawings I’ve been doing. Experimenting with new materials and processes may be helpful. Also being patient enough to create multiple drafts before a work is completed.
It is not easy to display graphic narrative work in an exhibit. I had to accept early on during my visit that I would not be able to read every single panel on display. It was challenging that way. I took in every section—early alt-comix, Maus, New Yorker covers, etc.—as a whole and focused on Spiegelman’s process and range of styles, mediums, and approach to projects. I was very proud that a cartoonist’s work was treated to an exhibit in a museum that was also showing paintings by Marc Chagall.
Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective is on display at the Jewish Museum through March 23, 2014.
-Had no idea he drew Garbage Pail Kids cards.
-Hope R. Crumb gets an exhibit like this soon.