Art Spiegelman never wanted a retrospective. “It feels like walking around among a bunch of tombstones,” he recently pronounced. It’s no surprise the famously anti-establishment cartoonist would be ambivalent about hanging his work in museum halls: he’s a cultural heretic who got his start scribbling satirical cartoons in the early ’70s as part of an underground comics ring in San Francisco. In 1991, he completed his Pulitzer-winning Maus, a disturbing parable based on his father’s experience in the Holocaust, that reimagined the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats.
Just as Spiegelman inadvertently elevated comic books into literature, he also transformed cartoons into high art. His new AGO show, which opens on Saturday, documents every stage of his creative trajectory: his earliest comic strips, the discarded drafts of his 1993 New Yorker cover depicting a Hasidic man kissing a black woman, and studies for a stained glass panel he designed for his alma mater, New York’s High School of Art and Design. Most affecting is the section dedicated to Maus, plastered with character studies and family artifacts, where a sound system plays recordings of Spiegelman interviewing his father. Click through the gallery for a look at some of his most iconic comics.
Dec. 20 to Mar 15. Included with general admission, $19.50. Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas, St. W., 416-979-6648, ago.net.