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Masters of American Comics

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2005

    Cartoons, An Art Form Museum Bound

    If 'art' can be defined as a view of the world or reaction or politicizing or representational through the many guises of that term as perceived by one who paints, sculpts, photographs, or draws, then the premise that 'comics' or 'cartoons' deserve the stature of an art form is certainly a viable decision. This large and generously illustrated volume, produced to accompany a museum exhibition, is probably as fine a treatise as is currently available, and if the book is representative of the exhibition to soon follow at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, then expectations can be justifiably high. Editors/curators John Carlin, Paul Karasik, and Brian Walker have complied a group of 15 comic artists, those whose works have been significantly before the public since the 1940's. By limiting the number of cartoonists presented, the writing contributors of this large volume have concentrated more on issues as defined by comics, the effect of comics on the reading American public, the viability of comics as a forum for public statement and parody, and as a means of entertainment. While many of the artists' names will not be familiar (Chris Ware, Winsor McCay, Seth, George Herriman, Jack Kirby and R. Crumb for example) certainly their comic strips and individual drawings will strike chords of acknowledgement with the public. The many contributed essays are variable, from entertaining to illuminating, and are from a well-chosen and curious band of writers: Jonathan Safran Foer, Raymond Pettibon , Tom De Haven, Pete Hamill, Cynthia Burlingham, Jules Feiffer, Glen David Gold, Matt Groening, Staley Crouch, Karla An Manning, Robert Storr, and Dave Eggers. If at times the essays become dry and didactic, veering from the content of the form, each still adds important information about the various artists and the history of comics. Though some artists, such as Raymond Pettibon and Mike Kelley, have always made art in the form of comic strips thereby setting a precedent for the museum presentation of this medium, it still remains to be seen how the size inherent in comic strips will look on the walls of a vast museum. Some fear the space will not add to the power of the works, that they are better viewed in the context of this book. But given the creativity of MASTERS OF AMERICAN COMICS it is probable that Curator John Carlin and his associates have overcome this potential visual presentational boredom. But even if the exhibition is not wholly successful in format, this book/catalogue certainly is! Grady Harp

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