The Road to Maus: Original drawings, studies and source material for Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning comic books Where: Gallery 210, Room 210, Lucas Hall, University of Missouri at St. Louis When: Through Oct. 8 Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tuesday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
"I LIKE to bring in things that shake people up, make them think about the definition of what is art," said Thomas Kochheiser, curator of Gallery 210 at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.
He has certainly done that in bringing "The Road to `Maus,' " a traveling exhibition put together by Galerie St. Etienne in New York. This show is about the creation of a comic book, which is hardly what most people consider gallery art.
But this is not just any comic book. Art Spiegelman spent 13 years of his life fashioning a pictorial narrative from his father's experiences as a Jew under the thumb of the Nazis. He made more than 40 hours of tape recordings of his father's reminiscences, and the sessions themselves became part of the book, showing the uneasy relationship of father and son.
The first volume of "Maus" was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award for biography when it was published in 1986. When the second volume was completed with the help of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the complete "Maus" was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
The traveling exhibition shows just what went into the creation of this unusual work. Working from a transcription of his father's narrative, Spiegelman jotted notes on how to bring the scene to life visually, sketching out a rough page breakdown. He rewrote the text over and over, to fit it into the tight spaces of captions and word balloons. Eventually, he drew and lettered the page with a fountain pen on typing paper.
The show includes some early works by Spiegelman - including a three-page "Maus" story done for an underground comic book several years before the book-length work was started. There are also sketches and studies for the covers of both volumes.
Original pages for a complete chapter are the centerpiece of the show, with framed pieces of preliminary material arranged above and below, so that one can read the story and glance up or down at sketches or historical research material relevant to that page.
In the center of the room, a computer holds the CD-ROM version of "Maus," a multi-media exhibit of its own, including voices and sketch material.
Kochheiser believes St. Louis is the first stop on the exhibition's travels to incorporate the CD, and it's an interesting addition. The main body of it works much the same as Kochheiser's arrangement of the show does - one can, while reading the story, choose to see sketches of panels, or hear Vladek's voice from the original tape that inspired the page.
Anyone who thinks comics are "kid's stuff" or that the medium is inherently unworthy of serious attention, should see "The Road to `Maus.' " Those who have already read "Maus" will be fascinated to see the work that went into it and the process of its creation.
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