Art Spiegelman Retrospective Opens 11/8 at Jewish Museum
From November 8, 2013 through March 23, 2014, The Jewish Museum will present Art Spiegelman's Co-Mix: A Retrospective celebrating the career of one of the most influential living comics artists and showing the full range of five decades of relentless experimentation. Best known for Maus, his Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel about his parents' survival of the Holocaust, Art Spiegelman (b. 1948) has produced a diverse body of work that has blurred the boundaries between "high" and "low" art. This first U.S. retrospective spans Spiegelman's career: from his early days in underground comix to the thirteen-year genesis of Maus, to more recent work including provocative covers for The New Yorker, and artistic collaborations in new and unexpected media. The exhibition highlights Spiegelman's painstaking creative process, and includes over three hundred preparatory sketches, preliminary and final drawings, as well as prints and other ephemeral and documentary material.
Art Spiegelman has embraced the credo that comics are a medium for personal expression, creating candid accounts of his own experiences, dreams, neuroses, and frustrations. He once noted, "Spiegel means mirror in German, so my name co-mixes languages to form a sentence: Art mirrors man."
Spiegelman first made a name for himself as a cartoonist and editor in underground comix, the graphic expression of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. As he matured as an artist, Spiegelman diverged from the sex and drug ethos of his peers and, in a postmodern fashion, increasingly challenged the narrative, visual, and structural possibilities of comics. He also began exploring themes that dominate his work to this day: intimate personal expression, memory, and history. In the 1980s Spiegelman reinvigorated underground comics by co-founding the avant-garde magazine RAW with his wife Françoise Mouly. RAW showcased the most groundbreaking graphic artists of the time, and serially published chapters of the then work-in-progress Maus.
Maus recounted his parents' life in Nazi-occupied Poland and later at Auschwitz, as well as Spiegelman's own complex relationship with his father, Vladek. Eventually published in two volumes (in 1986 and 1991 respectively) by Pantheon, Maus was the first of its kind in content and format: the unique structure of the comics medium allowed the artist to navigate time and memory beyond the limitations of prose, creating a rich narrative that exploded the boundaries of comics and nonfiction.
Refusing to be defined by the overwhelming attention brought by this singular work, Spiegelman largely turned away from autobiography in the 1990s, instead writing and drawing for The New Yorker and other publications, and began creating children's books. But after witnessing firsthand the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11, he returned to personal narrative with his autobiographical account In the Shadow of No Towers (2004). This lifelong concern with memory and personal experience has continued in his short comic strip memoir Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@*&! (2008), and in MetaMaus (2011), a meditation on his creative process and career.
A self-proclaimed "stylistic switch-hitter," Spiegelman's versatility and encyclopedic knowledge of comics history has allowed him to adapt his visual language to many contexts and audiences. For those most familiar with Maus, this retrospective exhibition will be revelatory, exploring his early formal experiments, honest self-exposés, as well as provocative illustrations, and comics essays. Museum visitors will gain an intimate look at an artist who continuously pushes himself and his art to the edge.