R. Crumb's UndergroundSeptember 5 through
December 7, 2008
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 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.
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.
Other collaborators included in the exhibition: Erna Burger, Charles Crumb, Sophie Crumb, Clay Geerdes, Rick Griffin, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Jay Lynch, Victor Moscoso, Harvey Pekar, Gilbert Shelton, Robert Spain Rodriguez, Williams, Skip Williamson, and S. Clay Wilson.
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.
Installation views at ICA. Photos by Aaron Igler. > click to enlarge
Related Public Programs
September 2008-March 2009
Comics, Animation and Graphic Novels at Penn - A Year-Long Celebration
Calendar of events and exhibitions
Whenever Wednesday: Lecture: Patrick Rosenkranz
wed sep 17 @ 7pm
Patrick Rosenkranz, comix historian and the author of the comprehensive tome Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963–1975, talks about R. Crumb’s work and the trangressive movement that it helped define.
FREE to members & Penn students, $5 general admission
A booksigning will be held at 1pm at Robin's Bookstore (108 S.13th Street). For more information call 215.735.9600 or visit Robin's Bookstore.
A Spiegel Fund event.
Whenever Wednesday: Tour: R. Crumb
wed oct 22 @ 6pm
Associate Curator Jenelle Porter sorts through the themes and ideologies critical to Crumb’s work—social satire, sex, blues and jazz, mind-altering substances, autobiography—and traces the development of his ultimate achievement and most important legacy: a wide-ranging, if critically suspicious, humanity.
Whenever Wednesday: Film: Crumb
wed oct 22 @ 7pm
Terry Zwigoff’s acclaimed 1995 biography documenting the life and times of the comix pioneer R. Crumb, featuring interviews with his family and ex-girlfriends, provides an insightful peek into the psychological sources of the legendary cartoonist’s paranoid, cynical, and subversive graphic art.
International House, 3701 Chestnut Street
Lecture: Charles Burns
mon oct 27 @ 5:30pm
Charles Burns, the award-winning Philadelphia-based cartoonist and illustrator well known for his fluid, graphic drawing style and deliciously dark themes (Big Baby, Skin Deep, Black Hole), discusses his own work and that of R. Crumb. Burns was an early and regular contributor to RAW, Art Spiegelman’s legendary magazine, and remains a leading figure of the comix movement.
Meyerson Hall B1, 201 South 34th Street
A Spiegel Fund event
First Sunday Tour
sun nov 2 @ 1pm
Yael Rice analyzes the warped, genius vision of comix legend R. Crumb.
Whenever Wednesday: Performance: Minicomic Pile Up
wed nov 12 @ 7pm
Many comic artists get their start in the do-it-yourself world of minicomics, small, limited-edition artist books—collectable gems—that run the gamut from photocopied gag strips to multicolored silkscreen masterworks. For this event, Philadelphia artist Paul Swenbeck has gathered some of the brightest stars in underground comics to debut new minicomics—and to perform music, which comic artists have traditionally done on the side since the early days, with R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders.
FREE to members & Penn Students, $5 general admission
Images, top to bottom: Robert Crumb, Complete Crumb Comics #10, 18 7/8” x 16 15/16” x 1 1/8”, framed, cover, 1991, ink on paper. Courtesy of