Man or Maus?
Man or Maus?
Cartoons are for kids, right? Comics are … well, you’d never mistake a comic book for Moby Dick, would you? Or would you? Art Spiegelman has perhaps done more than any other living artist to raise cartoons and comics to the level of literature and art. The proof is in the Pulitzer Prize he was awarded in 1992 and now the major museum show.
Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective at The Jewish Museum, Nov. 8 thru Mar. 23, spans the artist’s career and is the first full-scale exhibition of his work in the United States. “Spiegel means mirror in German,” Spiegelman once said, “so my name co-mixes languages to form a sentence: Art mirrors man.”
This is a big exhibit, displaying more than 300 preparatory sketches, preliminary and final drawings, plus prints and a host of other materials. The journey is thorough, the analysis complete, from his underground days co-editing Raw magazine to his seminal Maus novels to his illustrations for The New Yorker to his recent videos and collaboration with the Pilobolus dance company. There is much to see and equally much to read. Many of the exhibits are, by their very nature, miniscule, perhaps better suited to the printed page than a gallery wall. For this viewer, the best way to navigate such a feast was to pick and choose, not stopping for too long in front of any one work, but getting a general impression before backtracking for closer inspection. The most moving section, of course, belongs to the Maus novels, Spiegelman’s masterful and personal account of the Holocaust, as experienced by his father. These words and images are graphic in every sense of the word.
One viewing of the exhibition hardly suffices, which is why, before leaving the Jewish Museum, you will want to visit the museum shop, which has been intelligently stocked with a wide selection of Spiegelman tomes to go. The complete Maus novels are now on my bedside table.
>> The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Ave., 212.423.3200
Art Spiegelman, Self-Portrait With Maus Mask, 1989. Copyright © 1989 by Art Spiegelman. Used by permission of the artist and The Wylie Agency LLC.
Art Spiegelman, Lead Pipe Sunday no. 2 (detail), 1997, lithograph. Copyright © 1997 by Art Spiegelman. Used by permission of the artist and The Wylie Agency LLC.