Words and Pictures Collide: What the %@&*! Happened to Comics?
In conjunction with the exhibition George Herriman. Krazy Kat is Krazy Kat is Krazy Kat, the Museo Reina Sofía will devote a lecture to the artistic medium of comics, and its own language, at once mature and autonomous. The activity features a carefully considered presentation of the graphic novel by theorist and cartoonist Santiago García, followed by a lecture given by Art Spiegelman, the only cartoonist to win the Pulitzer Prize to date. The creator of Maus (written between 1986 and 1991) will share his vision of the comic as a battle zone defining “post-literary times”, where art and commerce, high-brow and popular culture, the young and old, reality and fantasy and, overall, words and images collide with added intensity.
Throughout its trajectory, the comic has been linked in different ways to the museum institution and to modern and contemporary art. Avant-garde artists in the past, such as Juan Gris and Lyonel Feininger, produced illustrations and comic strips which were widely considered minor works at the time; Pop Art made use of the medium’s iconography, appearance and production, giving expression to elite paintings which catered to mass tastes; and finally, the discernible influence in the work of visual artists from different decades and wide-ranging career arcs — Philip Guston, Martin Kippenberger and Michel Majerus — who sought to revamp or question the pictorial medium. The three circumstances mentioned, understood through traditional historiography as channels of legitimacy, have determined a paradoxical notion of the comic as an appendix which reinforces the dominant role of painting in the old hierarchy of the arts. This lecture, therefore, seeks to break away from this idea, instead viewing the comic as a medium in its own right, and setting forth the consideration that, if film was the great art form of the 20th century, then comics were the privileged written form of the same century. Thus, value is placed on a writing style shaped by the symbiotic mix between image and word, iconic and verbal registers, largely anticipating the visual elements of the Internet; a decidedly mainstream, mass and pedagogical vocation; and a sequential construction of narrative. In melding these three elements, comics have given expression to a bona fide factory of modern myths and fables, granting exposure to a whole series of artists — George Herriman, Winsor McCay, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, Alison Bechdel and Chris Ware — who have demonstrated their unparalleled talent for revealing the power of images.
Santiago García (Madrid, 1968). Cartoon scriptwriter, critic and translator. With a PhD in Art History, he is the author of the essay La novela gráfica (Astiberri, 2010) and has written comics such as El Vecino (Astiberri, 2004-2010), with illustrations by Pepo Pérez, and the work Las Meninas (Astiberri, 2014), with Javier Olivares, which won Spain’s National Comic Award in 2015 and the Award for the Best Work by a Spanish Author at Barcelona’s Comic-Con 2015. His latest work Museomaquia (Astiberri, 2017), with drawings by David Sánchez, looks back over the history of painting, from Medieval times to the present day via a Venetian horseman and his squire.
Art Spiegelman (Stockholm, 1942). Cartoonist. Spiegelman studied Art and Philosophy at Binghamton University’s Harpur College, in New York, before he became part of the underground comics subculture in the 1960s and 1970s, depicted in his anthology Breakdowns (Bélier Press,1977). In 1980, alongside his wife Françoise Mouly, he founded RAW, the acclaimed avant-garde comics magazine. Since then he has published his work in an array of magazines, including The New Yorker, where he worked as a contributing artist from 1993 to 2003. In 1992, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his comic Maus: A Survivor's Tale (Pantheon Books, 1991), based on the Holocaust, and other works of note include In the Shadow of No Towers (Viking Press, 2004) on 9/11. He was also awarded the Grand Prix de la Ville d’Angoulême (2011) and became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2015.