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Charles M. Schulz, three frames from Peanuts, October 13, 1968, newspaper comic strip. © United Feature Syndicate.

“Masters of American Comics”

Hammer Museum

FIFTEEN YEARS is a long time to prepare a retort. “Masters of American Comics,” an exhibition certifying the genius of fifteen male comics artists, eleven of them dead, seems to be a detailed answer to the Museum of Modern Art’s infamous 1990–91 show “High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture.”

At the time of “High & Low,” reviewers accused the curators of patronizing and sanitizing popular culture, shunning anything dark, gay, erotic, or feminist. Among the critics lamenting the show’s superficial treatment of comics was Art Spiegelman, the author of Maus (Pantheon Books, 1991), who published a cartoon critique of “High & Low” titled “High Art Lowdown” (included in this show) in the December 1990 issue of Artforum. He ticked off a list of artists missing from MoMA’s exhibition, derided its safe embrace of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, and took a jab at the curators’ decision to include

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