Jed Perl is Attacking Art Spiegelman for the Wrong Reasons Jed Perl has a piece at the New Republic about Art Spiegelman's CO-MIX retrospective, charmingly entitled "Art Spiegelman Is Comics' Most Pretentious Faux-Artist." Whoa, no trolling for pageviews there! Nevertheless, here is a link.
He does include this cringey quote by Spiegelman...
means mirror in German,” Spiegelman once explained, “so my name
co-mixes languages to form a sentence: Art mirrors man.” Neither Picasso
nor Matisse ever said anything quite that pretentious.
Ummm...okay, I'll give you that. That is pretty bad. But compare to the intensely egotistical statements of, say, someone like Gustave Courbet, and it pales a bit. There
is also the fact Perl doesn't really go into, in my view a far truer criticism, that he hasn't done anything especially ambitious
since MAUS--not anything nearly on that scale anyway. After that he has
been more akin to an editor or art director (and keep in mind, I do like IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS, LITTLE LIT, and indeed all his stuff, precisely why I wish for something meatier)--at times including title).
And his best books since then, like the excellent BREAKDOWNS, were retrospectives of
pre-MAUS work. Compare this to his contemporaries, like Alan Moore, who
just kept getting grander and grander ideas to this day. Leading one to a possible conclusion that MAUS was in fact the CULMINATION of his career. So
that I think would be a valid criticism of Spiegelman: that he has been
resting on his laurels for, Jesus, has it really been 22 years since
the final volume of MAUS? (and 27 since the major media coverage the
first one got) It
would be excusable in an older man, but Art was still relatively young
back then. He's made an industry out of MAUS. The book itself, lecturing on it, commentary on it, etc. MAUS
is a great work and you could say anyone would be happy to do only one
work in their life as good. True. But this is the mercurial Art
Spiegelman we're talking about. To stall at that point--as far as
important work--is not particularly excusable. That
said, Jed Perl's premise is: to think comics can be high art or be
ambitious is itself pretentious. Perl also doesn't understand Spiegelman, nor Art's idea of comics as a form of writing. (which I agree with wholeheartedly) Great draftsmanship is NOT a criterion of good comics--in fact sometimes it gets in the way, the need to make a pretty picture rather than understanding storytelling. And I say this as someone who tries quite hard (how successfully is up to others to decide) to be a good draftsman and effective storyteller. Perl doesn't really get what comics are. Then again, most of its practitioners and publishers don't, either.
So you know,he can go fuck himself. How's that for unpretentious, Perl? ___________________
"Eternity in the company of Beelzebub, and all of his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me & this pencil." --E. Blackadder, 1789 Questionable
words & pictures from John Linton Roberson