Notes on Art Spiegelman in Vancouver @ the VAG
By David Lester
As he puffed on a cigarette, Art Spiegelman was charming and witty in conversation despite the meandering questions of Vancouver Art Gallery curator Bruce Grenville. In town for the opening of the art gallery’s retrospective of Spiegelman’s work called CO-MIX, the artist touched on his origins as a cartoonist at Topps Bubblegum; the stain glass window of art he created at the request of his former high school; the importance of Robert Crumb, Spain, S. Clay Wilson; his New Yorker covers; and making prints from stone.
In reference to a projected slide Spiegelman talked about how it was a page of art he is proud of and it “took six months to draw,” and he thought it weird to be able to say in retrospect “I did Maus and I did this page.”
He pointed out the unique qualities inherent in comics to be able to compress a story. For Maus, Spiegelman wanted the art to have a hand drawn feel but the look of a font. And how Maus “was built around language.”
While talking about the work he and his wife Francoise Mouly did as makers of books and RAW he said, “You can’t Kindle Chris Ware’s latest book.”
Spiegelman noted the ongoing debates over comics as high art or low art, and his annoyance at Roy Lichtenstein. “Lichtenstein did no more for comics than Warhol did for soup,” he said.
Art Spiegelman CO-MIX: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics and Scraps runs until June 9, 2013 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
David Lester is author/artist of The Listener, and the guitarist in Mecca Normal.