Thursday, April 7, 2011

R. Crumb Does Not Make Mistakes (With His Pen)

The second stop on our Saturday gallery hopping odyssey was at one of my usual haunts: The Society of Illustrators on East 63rd Street. It's one of those true New York treasures that not that many people seem to know about. Their gallery shows are always well curated and interesting - and free of charge. Each Tuesday and Thursday the have their Jazz & Sketch nights. They have live music, a bar and models. I've had the pleasure of drawing such luminaries as World Famous *Bob*, Amber Ray and Miss Saturn. And there's all kinds of thrilling art everywhere.

Their current exhibit, up only through April 30 is R. Crumb: Lines Drawn on Paper. Curated by the editor of the Blab! anthology, Monte Beauchamp, it focuses on work from the collection of Eric Sack, most of it from the late '60s through the early '70s. R. Crumb is a monster and a genius, and from the interviews I've seen him give, he seems like an all right person. He's funny and profane and wears his problems and obsessions on his sleeve. Like Dennis Potter, one of my great influences, it's hard to get all that upset at him for his failings, for he is so achingly aware of them.

There really is something to offend and delight most people, but after looking at the 90 or so works contained in the exhibition, something began to dawn on me. I've seen a lot of original comic drawings, and I work in pen and ink fairly often. I've written about it here, about how it is an unforgiving medium. Usually, when you see the original pages from comics, you see corrections. White out, bits pasted in, etc. Particularly as few (if any) of these artists ever anticipated the originals being seen. In the elaborate and beautifully drawn works in this exhibit I saw very, very few corrections.

Robert Crumb is an unerring draftsman and an artist of true brilliance. I mean, he can draw. He can really, really draw. His output is truly fearsome and all of it is all kind of perfect. You can't see one of his drawings without knowing who created it. Only someone trained in a Renaissance workshop or a single-minded obsessive could get this good.

So, yeah. Go. It's also fun to be in a gallery full of giggling people. My only criticism is that It would have been lovely to see more of his recent work: the Heroes of the Blues series or something from his Old Testament adaptation. These are just quibbles, though.

Find information and hours here. And it's FREE.

1 comment:

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

I've always thought Crumb was a real casualty of the one-man-band ideology of indie comix. 'Cause Crumb can indeed draw like a motherfucker---so many lines, and all so perfect! such a bulging, throbbing life to every background object!---but it an utterly mediocre writer. I always liked best his work with Harvey Pekar---Pekar isn't a great writer, but he's at least a writer, even though his style was never quite right for Crumb---the relentless realism let Crumb create many wonderful portraits, but it didn't give him the opportunity to make the crazy environments that he's so good at.

Now have you read Binky Brown Meets The Virgin Mary? Similar territory to Crumb's stuff, including lots of Catholic sex obsession, but much, much better written and without the icky sense of entitlement (I think that's a terrible overused word, but it seems right when talking Crumb).