From the Silly to the Sublime: : A Century of American Comic Strips

Artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein grew up with newspaper comic strips in their youth and later became icons of Pop Art, incorporating images into their art that they found in newspapers and comic books. The American comic strip inspired these artists and many others, bringing the popular art of the times into our museums.  It was a foundation for them to blast off from with their careers.

Newspaper comic strips were very popular starting in the early 1900’s.  They helped sell newspapers nationwide. In fact, the first comic books created were reprints of the daily and Sunday newspaper comics’ features. Later new material, like Superman and Batman, were created in the 1940’s expressly for the comic book industry. Ironically, these heroes became newspaper comic strips also.  You might say that the popularity of the newspaper strips ignited a booming industry for comic books, and also became a foundation for Pop Art.

The characters and their creators were stars in their own time.  Movies, serials, books and toys grew out of this unique and creative foundation.  The writers and artists who had syndicated newspaper strips around the nation were celebrities. Two unique art forms were born out of American popular culture: jazz and comic strips!  This exhibit pays tribute to the art of the comic strip. The masters of pen and ink like Milton Caniff, Burne Hogarth and Alex Raymond were but a few of the artists who had their work in newspapers for many generations to enjoy! 

In addition to featuring these important pioneers, this exhibit includes a host of noteworthy luminaries: Dream of the Rarebit Fiend by Winsor McCay, who’s early 1900s work helped create the language of the comic strip, and of animation art as well; two Krazy Kat Sundays created by George Herriman, one of the foremost creators of the American comic strip and a genius whose work still looks fresh and revolutionary; and a 1950s Sunday of Donald Duck by Al Taliaferro

The centerpiece of the show is a selection of art from the greatest comedic American comic strip, Peanuts, by Charles Schulz. Peanuts is celebrating 70 years since its creation. The Peanuts works are exhibited in conjunction with the release of the Peanuts Papers, a delightful new book edited by Andrew Blauner, which brings together a roster of writers and artists who share what Peanuts teaches us about disappointment, melancholy and possibly the meaning of life. 

The exhibit also includes post 1960s comic strips that were informed by the turmoil and counter -culture movement that caused an upheaval of previously accepted morals, ideas, traditions and art styles. On display will be a comic strip by Victor Moscoso who illustrated concert posters for Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, and many others. 

Robert Crumb is perhaps the best known of the underground cartoonists. His groundbreaking ZAP Comix changed the art form forever. On view will be an unused logo for Zap #1 which was eventually used for a later issue of Zap

Other notable works include Post modern artist and designer (Pee Wee’s Playhouse) Gary Panter’s strip Jimbo, and Chris Ware’s ‘Sunday’ style strip of his ‘Quimby the Mouse’ character, that not only pays homage to George Herriman’s Krazy Kat but also is infused with the artist’s distinct post- modern sensibility. 

Cartoons are easy for the brain to decipher and have been used by man since cavemen drew on walls to communicate primitive truths. Cartoons have been used for radical political communication in the newspapers of the world, and on the graffitied  walls of cities. Cartoons have been used to communicate humor, adventure, and all the emotions of human existence. Our show will present a selection of memorable cartoons and comic strips that illustrate the wonderful varied pallet available to creators when they put pen to paper to inform, challenge, and entertain us. 

Introduction by R. Robert Pollak and Rob Pistella.

Exhibit Info

Dates

March 10, 2020 to May 02, 2020

On display in the 3rd Floor Hall of Fame Gallery.