Political and social satire, comic-strip and comic-book drawings, New Yorker magazine illustrations and graphic narratives—original cartoon art that was added to the Library of Congress collections during the past decade—is featured in a new exhibition, “Timely and Timeless: New Comic Art Acquisitions.”
The exhibition, which opened on Sept. 15, 2011, in the changing exhibit space of the Graphic Arts Galleries on the ground level of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, closes on March 10, 2012. The galleries are open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.
“Timely and Timeless” celebrates and demonstrates the multi-faceted development and impressive growth of the comic art collections at the Library of Congress. The exhibition, a collaborative effort of the Prints and Photographs Division and the Interpretive Programs Office, presents 48 works grouped primarily by genre. These include editorial cartoons, caricatures, comic strips, cover art and humor cartoons, comic-book drawings and graphic narratives.
Among the cartoonists remodern and contemporary creators such as Jazz Age cartoonist John Held, Jr.; African American artist Oliver Wendell Harrington; New Yorker cartoonists Charles Addams and Roz Chast; and comic-strip creators Bill Griffith and Aaron McGruder.
The selection in this exhibition also responds to recent trends in cartooning, which include growth in mainstream and alternative comic-book industries and the related, rapidly rising importance of graphic novels or narratives, as represented by the work of Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man, and graphic novelist Eric Drooker.
The title of the exhibition, “Timely and Timeless,” refers to the nature of comic art. Comic art relates closely 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. Timeless reflections of the human condition and society are also represented in the drawings and prints selected for this exhibition. The messages and artistic expression embodied in these creations transcend the periods in which they were created.
The development of the Library’s comic-art holdings can be attributed to the support of the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon, which was established to encourage appreciation for the dynamic and evolving field of cartoon and illustration arts; to special funds; and to the generosity of numerous donors, many of them artists who have given original work. The breadth of the selection presented in “Timely and Timeless” provides an opportunity to explore and experience the richness of these collections.
The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division holds the largest-known collection of American political prints, the finest assemblage of British satirical prints outside Great Britain, and holdings of original drawings by generations of America’s best cartoonists and illustrators. Extensive runs of rare satirical and comic journals from Europe and the United States can also be found in the division. In addition, the division holds photographs, posters, historical prints, fine-art prints and architectural and engineering designs.
The exhibition can be viewed online at www.loc.gov/exhibits/.