I know I’ve mentioned in passing before, but this story reminds me post something new. The Masters of American Comics exhibit that is wrapping up in Los Angeles will be hitting the road to other select cities in the U.S. Next up is Milwaukee (April 27-Aug 13) then on to New York and New Jersey.
The exhibit is one of the largest comic related exhibits that I’m aware of and his done much to elevate the “low-brow” art form of comics. If you live near one of the cities cited above, this would be a great exhibit to attend.
As such, the sprawling exhibition attempts to track the development of comics as an art form beginning in the first decade of the 20th century and continuing to the present time.
Progressing in more or less chronological order, it opens with the works of Winsor McCay, who created the comic strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland” in 1905.
“McCay was hailed during his lifetime as America’s greatest cartoonist,” notes Cynthia Burlingham, deputy director of collections at the Hammer, whose staff worked for years with Walker and Carlin in putting the exhibition together.
It progresses from there to Lyonel Feininger, a founding member of the Bauhaus who worked as a cartoonist for less than a year before switching to a celebrated career as an expressionist painter.
Also included are George Herriman, whose more modernist style gave the world the popular Krazy Kat, and Chester Gould, who brought to life the square-jawed, no-nonsense detective Dick Tracy.
Beginning in the 1930s, Gould’s graphic drawing style, coupled with his tales of murder and mayhem, introduced comic strip readers to the darkest comic world they had ever seen. In one panel on display, for example, the villains have left Tracy tied up under a melting block of ice with a stake impaled just above his heart.
The exhibition’s first half then seemingly ends on a lighter note, with an extensive display of works by “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz. Don’t be fooled, advises Walker.
Although Schulz, who died in 2000, is revered for giving the world Snoopy, the all-knowing beagle that he based on his own pet dog, Spike, he also drew from his childhood experiences to create one of pop culture’s truly heart-wrenching figures.