Art Spiegelman’s terrific Jewish Museum retrospective

The great comic artist Art Spiegelman gets a long overdue restrospectve at The Jewish Museum beginning today.

Famed for his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” and his cover art for The New Yorker, Spiegelman’s work spans a broad crosssection of outlets. The exhibition showcases a suitable range of the artist’s work, displaying highlights from his fifty-year long career, including cartoons from publications as diverse as Playboy and Artforum.

“Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective” has been curated with an appropriate balance of humor and seriousness.

Spiegelman’s ability to create immensely poignant work, carefully blended with delicate humor, makeshard-to-confront subjects uniquely accessible.

Everything from the Holocaust (“Maus”) to difficulties like family relationships and one’s sense of self-worth (“Breakdown”) are explored in a cleverly appealing way.

The exhibition begins with Spiegelman’s early cartoons from Arcade magazine. These early works –loaded with biting humor — demonstrate the influence of MAD magazine and Harvey Kurtzman, whom Spiegelman cites along with Charles Schultz as an inspiration.

The 80’s saw Spiegelman and wife Françoise Mouly launch their own magazine, RAW. On display are early incarnations of the publication, which explored the self-expression of the comic strip as a medium.

Also from this time, a nearby wall features the grotesquely hilarious characters that are Spiegelman’s Garbage Pail Kids series.

At the heart of the exhibition is Maus, Spiegelman’s graphic novel recounting his father’s experience in Auschwitz. Research materials and over three hundred sketches demonstrate the painstaking process of the novel’s development. The work earned Spiegelman a Pulitzer in 1992, the first graphic novel to win the lauded prize.

Spiegelman’s often-provocative artwork for The New Yorker is a highlight of the exhibition. His iconic depiction of a Hasidic Jewish man in a passionate embrace with a black woman for The New Yorker’s 1993 Valentine’s Day cover is among those displayed.

The politically scathing “In the Shadow of No Towers” is a series Spiegelman produced in the years following the 9/11 attacks.

Taking his cross-media cartooning to the next level, the exhibition concludes with Spiegelman’s most recent projects, including a collaboration with American dance troupe Pilobolus, which fuses animation with performance art.

Highly varied and thoroughly entertaining, Co-Mix provides something for everyone.