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 Crumb’s 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 Philadelphia’s Yarrowstalks and in his own Zap Comix, Crumb’s 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 commodification—the hustles and bustles hidden beneath the American dream.
This career-spanning survey, on view September 5-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 works—including early comics, greeting cards, collaborations, and sketchbooks, as well as drawings and sculptures—is the most substantial portrait of Crumb to date in the United States.
This exhibition is organized by Todd Hignite for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, and is coordinated at the ICA by Associate Curator Jenelle Porter.