Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective

November 8, 2013 - March 23, 2014

This first U.S. retrospective celebrates the career of one of the most influential living comic artists. The exhibition spans Spiegelman’s career from his early days in underground comix to provocative New Yorker covers and artistic collaborations in new media. Included are over three hundred preparatory sketches, preliminary and final drawings, plus prints and other ephemeral and documentary material.

Installation view of Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective. Photo: David Heald/Jewish Museum

Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective celebrates the career of one of the most influential living comic artists. 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 over the course of five decades 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 his 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.

Spiegelman first made a name for himself as an artist 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 1980’s 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, as well as serially publishing chapters of the then work-in-progress Maus.

Maus recounted his parents’ life in Nazi-occupied Poland and 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 creating a series of 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 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— from his early formal experiments, to his honest self-exposés, to his provocative illustrations and comic essays, visitors will gain an intimate look at an artist who continuously pushes himself and his art to the edge. The exhibition will also explore his artistic collaborations in new and unexpected media, including a performance with the dance troupe Pilobolus.

Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective was organized by Rina Zavagli-Mattotti for the 2012 Festival International de la Bande Desinée in Angoulême, France where Art Spiegelman was honored with the Grand Prix for lifetime achievement in illustration—and is coordinated for the Jewish Museum in New York by Emily Casden, Curatorial Assistant. The exhibition has traveled to the Library of the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; and the Vancouver Art Gallery. The Jewish Museum is the only U.S. venue. 

 

Leadership support is provided by Eugene and Emily Grant in memory of Evelyn G. Clyman, beloved sister. 
The exhibition is made possible, in part, with endowment support from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Exhibition Fund and the Alfred J. Grunebaum Memorial Fund. Generous support is also provided by Jean Schulz. 

Video

Art Spiegelman discusses his career retrospective at the Jewish Museum.