Robert Crumb: Uncovered at Scream Gallery

Robert Crumb, otherwise known as R. Crumb, is one of the leading figures of the 1966/67 hippy underground comic movement. Philadelphia-born Crumb exploded onto the scene in the late 60’s, heralding a renaissance of underground sex and drug comics. His LSD-inspired characters Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural quickly established him as a counter-culture icon.

Robert CrumbEncouraged to create comic books as a child by his artistic brother Charles, Robert soon surpassed his sibling, and what was a form of escapism from a childhood spent in a dysfunctional family ruled by an abusive father and neurotic Mother, translated into a lifelong career that has culminated, at the age of 66, in critical recognition for his work not just as a comic book creator, but an acutely observational fine artist in the vein of Guston or Goya. Crumb’s material is often inspired by the absurdity of humanity. His drawings are exhibited in blue-chip galleries and museums all over the world. He has published in countless comics, books, and magazines, and has in recent years been recognized by the broader art world with numerous exhibitions, including; “R. Crumb’s Underground at the ICA” in Philadelphia in 2008; a retrospective at the Ludwig Museum, Cologne in 2004; and a focus in the 2004 Carnegie International, Pittsburgh.

The exhibition at Scream Gallery will be part of Comica, the London International Comics Festival, which takes place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) from 5-26 November.

Curator Brandon Coburn has selected the finest drawings from a rare collection of more than 300 pages of Robert Crumb drawings dating from the 1960’s to 2001. The Symbolic Collection has been amassing the collection of drawings and original comic books since 2006. The exhibition will mainly feature Pen and ink drawings, but will also include sketchbook pages, greeting cards, ink on acetate, and one very rare oil painting, in the vein of a cubist Picasso portrait. Some of the artworks have been exhibited at PULSE Miami and PULSE NY, and this is the first time they’ve been shown in the UK.

The exhibition will feature all the iconic characters including; Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural. Frisky Fritz the Cat is up to his old tricks in ‘Fritz the No-Good’. An original drawing for the cover of Motorcity Comics features a typically Amazonian Crumb woman, putting the boot into a bulky New York cop. His rendering of a ‘girl commando’ has a visceral impact as she shouts Join the world – family revolution or die!!! A drawing of legendary singer and comic book fan Janis Joplin, singing into a phallic microphone, is printed on a sheet of acid tabs and signed by Timothy Leary.

Crumb’s iconic character ‘Mr. Natural’ is featured in ‘”on the bum again”, a strip where a cowgirl lasso’s him, sits on top of him and demands ‘Just tell me real quick what the secret of the Universe is”. This interest in the universe illustrates his spiritual leanings, which have come to the foreground with the recent international publication of his latest and most epic project – an illustration of ‘The book of Genesis’. Hardcore fans may be surprised by his new topic, although this time it’s not a satire, it’s a beautiful depiction of the Bible in the mould of William Blake that he created over a period of 5 years, in isolation in a shepherd’s hut in rural France. The original Genesis pages will be on display in “The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb’s book of Genesis” at the Hammer Museum in LA from 24 October 2009 to 7 February 2010. Crumb was raised as a Catholic and admits that he believes in God, and spiritual forces in the Universe. Maybe the psychedelic sex-obsessed Crumb of the 60’s and 70’s has mellowed in his old age.