Tuesday, October 23, 2012

San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum

In January of this year, I visited Pittsburgh's Toonseum for the first time.  The Toonseum, for those of you who don't know, is one of only two museums dedicated solely to comic and cartoon art in the entire United States, and as such, it's a rare treat and a boon for the Pittsburgh area.  The other of the two is located in none other than the city of San Francisco, some 2,500 miles west along the California coast.  I didn't think I'd get to visit both in such a short period of time, but this summer, after the trip to Comic-Con in San Diego, I drove up the coast and spent some time in San Francisco.  I figured that I might as well make it two-for-two so one sunny Saturday afternoon, on a day of sightseeing, I walked over to the Cartoon Art Museum.

The museum, like the Toonseum, takes up the equivalent of a storefront near the city's downtown area. I was surprised at how similarly set up the two museums were, and how one might be able to pass for the other if you weren't familiar with the locations.  The Cartoon Art Museum is bigger than the Toonseum, but not by a significant amount.

The museum's feature exhibit, perhaps influenced by the recently concluded Comic-Con as much as the summer's blockbuster movie scene, revolved around the Avengers.  The display was very impressive as it showed off artwork from 50 years of Avengers comics in chronological order.  There were plenty of popular storylines covered as well as some lesser known pieces.  Starting out and seeing an original Jack Kirby page from 1963's Avengers #1 was thrilling - and what an act for the other pieces to follow!

There were several Kirby pages on display.  It was refreshing to see the original art, unencumbered by the poor printing capabilities of the 1960s.

On the other side of the display was Frank Cho's original cover art from Avengers Vs. X-Men #0.  Quite lovely!

More art from the wall.  Most of the pages were preserved well, though some were showing their age.

OH YEAH!  The original cover art to Marvel Two-in-One #75!  I was happy to see the Thing show up so prominently.

This Avengers West Coast issue was probably one of the more obscure pieces there, but I latched on to it (not literally; that's illegal) because it's drawn by one of my favorite artists, Paul Ryan.

The second exhibit was dedicated to MAD Magazine.  I know much less about MAD than I do about comic books to be certain, but it was still a real treat to see artwork from such an influential book, and they had some great pieces to be sure, including some by the great Jack Davis.

This strip is a greeeeeeat parody of the Silver Age Superman.  Loved it.

I figured Larry might like this one.

Moving on to further exhibits, I was stunned to see original art from seminal classics from the early 20th century.  This is an original Krazy Kat page!  Unbelievable!

And here's an original page from The Spirit by Will Eisner.  Again, just incredible.

This little montage adorned the walls of the gift shop, which was impressive in its own right.

One of the signature pieces of the museum was this original animation camera, used in the late 1940s and early 50s.  It's great that a piece like this, something so important to animation history, has a place to be on display.  Much of what was on exhibit this day was comic art, and while that's certainly a favorite of mine, there wasn't much in the way of cartoon cels or production artwork.  Maybe there'll be some in the next big exhibition.

The Cartoon Art Museum was a great place to visit and it lived up to my expectations.  It is very similar to the Toonseum in its focus and its layout, though this trip made it clear that the Toonseum still has a little ways to go to match what they're doing in San Francisco.  They'll get there, though.

Another day took me to the de Young Fine Art Museum, which had slightly different types of art.

That's not to say that there wasn't the ever present influence of comics there, though, as I found this beauty by Mel Ramos hanging in one of the more crowded hallways.

And then I saw the house they filled for the establishing shots of "Full House".  Do you hear me, world?  I saw the Full House house!

I did other touristy stuff, too, like when I walked across this big bridge.  I forget its name.  Thanks, San Francisco, for a week of culture and art!

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