On the day of his 65th birthday, the Vancouver Art Gallery opened CO-MIX, a retrospective of the 40 year career of brilliant American artist Art Spiegelman. CO-MIX features more than 400 preparatory drawings, sketches, studies and panels, samples from his work for Topps candy company and a collection of Garbage Pail Kids.
In 2008, Spiegelman served as curator and a featured artist for the VAG's exhibit called Krazy: The Delirious World of Anime, Comics, Video Games and Art. It was a fantastic show and a first of its kind at the gallery, spanning the history of influential comic artwork, and CO-MIX does not disappoint.
The crowd was so large on the Tuesday evening I attended the show, curator Bruce Grenville lost his voice as he tried to lead throngs of people through the exhibition. The excitement in the room was so different from the gallery's usual solemn silence, as people pointed out their favorite Garbage Pail Kid and poked their heads around shoulders trying to read to the satirical Wacky Packages candy designs on the wall.
Spiegelman is best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel Maus, where he tells the story of his Polish-Jewish father’s experience in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. The idea for a long form graphic exploration of this story came after writing a three page comic where the Jews were mice and Nazi’s were cats. He thought about his idea for a long time, but when he heard that Steven Spielberg planned to make an animated movie based on a mouse called An American Tail, he rushed to finish his book before his idea was lost.
The final rooms of the exhibition are some of the most exciting, which show Spiegelman's later work for children's books, graphic essays, and cover art for The New Yorker. He explores conversations with other comic artists, such as Maurice Sendak and Charles Shultz, and portrays his experience being in New York during the Sept 11 attack.
CO-MIX runs until June 9 and it is well worth setting aside an afternoon (or two!) to wander through this show.
Written for Hello VanCity