Feature

Masters of American Comics

Split into two exhibits, this show gives insight into the creators of comic books and allows viewers to compare and witness how one artist inspires another.

Whether you've spent your life poring over the comics or merely used them to line the bird cage, the two-part exhibit Masters of American Comics 'œcontains enough rare and exceptional artwork to ruin any mind,' said Doug Harvey in the LA Weekly. Split between the Hammer Museum and MOCA, the sprawling show contains more than 900 objects. It's a noble attempt to 'œestablish a canon of geniuses for an artistic medium long-despised as inconsequential, or even poisonous.' In this, it succeeds. It's bookended by the 'œundeniably masterful draughtsmanship' of Sunday funnies pioneer Winsor McCay, who drew Little Nemo in Slumberland, and contemporary Chicago graphic auteur Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. The only inclusion that might rankle is R. Crumb, but anyone who hasn't recognized Crumb as a 'œnational treasure should be locked in a cell with only Cathy to read until they get over it.'

It's worth seeing both halves of the exhibit, said Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times. Comic artists, like all artists, often refer to their predecessors. Take the drawings of Jack Kirby at MOCA, which may at first evoke older surrealist painting and Nuclear Age science fiction. But if you've seen the first half of the exhibit, you'll realize that Kirby is actually nodding toward McCay, who took readers on trips 'œthat look like the world seen in the disorienting reflections of a fun-house mirror.' At both museums, installations distinguish between the artists' handmade drawings and those mass-produced, often putting the images side by side for comparison. The exhibit is essentially 15 career retrospectives of groundbreaking artists such as Lyonel Feininger, Chester Gould, Milton Caniff, and Art Spiegelman. 'œIt's a reliable canon of masters.'

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