The struggle between the artistic integrity of comic books versus the bottom of a trash can has been a long and arduous one. While comic books have finally garnered the respect they deserve, there was a time, not too long ago, when comics were meant only for kids and weirdos. Enter Art Spiegelman; American comic legend.
Spiegelman, best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel Maus, holds the belief that the comic medium can be used to convey powerful and thought provoking messages enhanced through the mediums unique marriage of art and story. It is because of his efforts that we have the caliber of work we see today. If you are in the Vancouver area from February 16th to June 9th 2013, head over to the Vancouver Art Gallery and take a glimpse into the mind of one of North America’s most important Artists. Art Spiegelman: CO-MIX: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics and Scraps is a complete retrospective of Spiegelman’s diverse career and a wholly fascinating look in to the process of comic creation.
I had the privilege of checking-out this exhibition over the weekend and I was left inspired, and slightly intimidated by the man’s enormous body of work. Spiegelman, born in 1948, the son of two holocaust survivors, started drawing professionally at the age of 15. His first assignment was drawing food labels, and yes they are on display as well. From there he moved onto producing his own magazine, Undergroung Comix, which he distributed himself, handing the issues out on street corners. While Spiegelman had made a name for himself in the underground, he would then garner acclaim and awards with Maus. Adapted from stories his father had told him growing up, Maus is a World War II holocaust survivors tale that re-imagines the Nazi’s as cats and the Jewish population as mice. It is viewed as one of the most important works in comic history, and is essential reading for scholars of any subject.
Though this was my first time in an art gallery, and I am by no means an expert on modern art, I found this exhibit fascinating and engaging. As a lifelong reader of comics, and a writer myself, the illustrative side of the creative process has always been a mystery to me. Simple fact about me is, I’m just not a drawer, so being able to peek inside the mind of someone like Spiegelman is something I will never forget. The ability to see sketches of hand gestures scribbled on scraps of paper alongside the final page’s that would eventually form Maus is invaluable. This is a rare opportunity to view a lifetime of creativity and the impact it has had on the world. If you are in the Vancouver area and are a fan of comics or art, then the Art Spiegelman: CO-MIX: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics and Scraps is a must see. This is an extensive and important glimpse into the psyche of a living legend and an experience you’ll remember for years to come. Not bad for the guy who created Garbage Pail Kids eh?
Art Spiegelman: CO-MIX: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics and Scraps is open from now till June 9th, 2013 at the Vancouver Art Gallery