PHILADELPHIA.- In 1967, a young Philadelphia cartoonist named Robert Crumb arrived in San Francisco and quickly established himself as a master of the burgeoning comix movement. No one had ever seen anything like Crumbs skewed adult satire, a brilliant combination of classical storytelling and crass commercialism, expressed in a vibrant symbolic language harking back to old time cartooning. First featured in Philadelphias Yarrowstalks and in his own Zap Comix, Crumbs tales of funny animals and misguided souls seeking enlightenment (including Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural, Devil Girl, and his most enduring character, R. Crumb) vibrate with libidinal obsessions, feminist empowerment, racial tension, counterculture paranoia, government repression, and big-business commodificationthe hustles and bustles hidden beneath the American dream.
This career-spanning survey, on view though December 7, 2008, is organized around specific themes and ideologies critical to his work. These include social satire, sex, blues and jazz music, mind-altering substances, autobiography, and biography. The show spotlights collaborations from his early San Francisco days in the 1960s and 1970s, to recent work with his wife, cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb. Extending far beyond comics, this exhibit of over 100 worksincluding early comics, greeting cards, collaborations, and sketchbooks, as well as drawings and sculpturesis the most substantial portrait of Crumb to date in the United States.
Robert Crumb (born 1943 Philadelphia; lives Sauve, France) began drawing comics as a young boy in the 1950s. Universally acknowledged as the founder of the underground comics scene (often called comix to denote adult-themed comic books), Robert Crumb gained cult popularity for his pioneering Zap Comix, and stardom with the 1994 Terry Zwigoff documentary Crumb. He has published in countless comics, books, and magazines over the years, and has recently been recognized by the larger art world with numerous exhibitions, including a retrospective in 2004 at the Ludwig Museum, Cologne, and a focus in the 2004 Carnegie International, Pittsburgh.