Timely and Timeless celebrates and demonstrates the multi-faceted development and impressive growth of the comic art collections at the Library of Congress. Drawn from the abundance of cartoons and comics acquired during the past decade, the new acquisitions on display build on the established strengths of the Library's holdings in political and social satire, comic strips, and caricature. The selection in this exhibition also responds to recent trends in the world of cartooning, which include growth in mainstream and alternative comic book industries and the related, rapidly rising importance of graphic novels or narratives. Inclusion of original comic book and graphic narrative art among the Library's new additions underscore these trends.
Comic art manifests close connections to the times that give rise to it—in terms of content, aesthetic sensibility, and conceptualization. Timeliness is, in fact, a defining feature of much comic art, which often comments on current events. The caricatures, humor cartoons, cover designs, comic strips, comic book art, political cartoons, and graphic narratives selected for this exhibition represent timeless reflections of the human condition and society as well. The messages and artistic expression embodied in these creations transcend the periods in which they were created. Recent exhibitions of comic art in major art museums attest to a growing appreciation for the vitality of these creative works, long a focus of programs at the Library of Congress.
These new additions also reveal a state of transition in the technical means currently employed in the creative process of cartooning. Today, for example, many editorial cartoonists and comic strip creators use a hybrid process that combines drawing by hand, with color or gray tones added digitally to complete the finished work. Other cartoonists create their imagery entirely with digital technology, and a select group uses no digital technology whatsoever. The exhibition includes examples of all these approaches.
The support of the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon, special funds, and the generosity of numerous donors, many of them artists who have given original work, have all been critical to the development of the Library's comic art holdings. The breadth of the selection presented in Timely and Timeless provides an opportunity to explore and experience the richness of cartoon art preserved at the Library for future generations.