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Posts Tagged ‘R. Crumb’

Here Comes the Moon

October 17, 2016 | by

The hopeful dystopia of Pushwagner’s Soft City.

From Soft City.

Where does art begin? In the case of Soft City, the straightforward answer is this: it began in Fredrikstad, Norway, in 1969, in a sea captain’s house converted into a writer’s retreat by the novelist Axel Jensen, after Pushwagner had ingested Sandoz LSD. He doodled a man in a car, whom he intuited was called “Mr. Soft”—five years before Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel would have a hit song of that name—and, along with Jensen, envisioned a day-in-the-life narrative structure for the character, along the lines of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and James Joyce’s Ulysses. And then?

A hiatus of some three years (hardly the only sharp left turn in Pushwagner’s tumultuous life), during which time he lived on virtually nothing in London (subsisting by selling drawings on trains for pennies) and Oslo, went back to his mother’s, was arrested for trying to board a flight to Madeira on his hands and knees, was institutionalized, walked back to Fredrikstad, escaped a hotel in Paris, sojourned in Lisbon, returned to London, and became a father. After these adventures, he once again began Soft City, with, he’s said, his beloved baby daughter, Elizabeth, on his lap, and with thoughts of the future in mind. Mr. Soft now had a family of his own, and a fearful projected dystopia to live in. Pushwagner finished the book, or rather the 269 bleak yet blackly comic ink drawings that would comprise it, in 1975; and then, after a few luminaries of the London music world had admired it (including Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood), he lost it. Read More »

The Last Days of Foamhenge

July 26, 2016 | by

Hanover 2810-24

Photo: Brett Hanover.

If you’ve ever taken I-81 north through Virginia, you’ve passed the town of Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County—home to a ninety-foot limestone arch that extends over a gorge, a geological anomaly probably formed by an ancient underground river. Natural Bridge is an anachronism from the Route 66 era of highway travel, a place where you can pay twenty dollars to look at a rock, eat a rock-themed lunch, and then buy a shot glass illustrated with a picture of that same rock. As any respectable tourist trap must, the town hosts a constellation of other attractions: a petting zoo, a dinosaur/Civil War theme park, and the Natural Bridge Wax Museum (now closed, and former home to a ghoulish Obama tribute). Best of all is the featherlight, faux prehistoric monument known as Foamhenge.

As its name suggests, Foamhenge is a one-to-one scale replica of Stonehenge, made of foam. It is identical to the original, save the flecked gray paint, the accompanying statue of a deadhead-ish Merlin, and the fact that it was erected several millennia later. For the past twelve years, the henge has been the most public of Natural Bridge’s draws, garnering a steady stream of visitors and enough press to be mentioned in the same breath as the area’s actual ancient rocks. Its creator, an artist named Mark Cline, calls it his “foam-nomenon”: the unlikely culmination of his career as a sculptor of roadside attractions. Read More »

Don’t Worry, R. Crumb Is Still Weird, and Other News

April 26, 2016 | by

An R. Crumb illustration from Art & Beauty No. 2. Courtesy the artist, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner, New York/London

  • To celebrate the reissue of George Plimpton’s sports oeuvre (Paper Lion, Out of My League, et cetera), you’ll probably want to see these pictures of him doing one of the things he did so well: getting in over his head with very athletic men.
  • Crumb has a new exhibition at a London gallery—a surprisingly reputable turn for an artist who prides himself on his ill repute. But don’t worry: he’s the same old glorious pervert. “I was always a contrarian. My wife says sometimes I’m too much so—born weird. I always felt there’s something odd and off about my nervous system. If everybody’s walking forward, I want to walk backwards. During adolescence I couldn’t fit in, and it was very, very painful. But it fired me to develop my own aesthetic. I was very much in pain about being this outcast, but it freed me to drop that Hollywood ideal and pursue the people that I thought attractive … My work is full of anger toward women. I was sent to Catholic school with scary nuns and I was rejected by girls at high school. I sort of got it out of my system, but anger is normal between the sexes. Okay, it can go to the top and men can harm women, but if anyone says they are not angry I don’t believe it, especially while your libido is still going. The men who are most charming are often the most contemptuous.”
  • In which Eileen Myles gets paid for—can you believe this?—writing poetry. “A poem is my money … My poem is my property. Like my lawn. I get a thousand dollars for a poem in Transparent … I think The New Yorker gave me something like $600 for the poem ‘Dissolution.’ It had been the most I had ever gotten for a poem I think. Sometimes now when I am asked to write a catalogue essay for an artist I realize I could do a poem and I propose that or simply send it. In those cases I have gotten $1500 for the poems which is the most. Yet it is low for an art catalogue so in a way writing a poem is a kind of complaint. Here take a fucking poem for that price. I mean it doesn’t literally feel that way but I’m always looking for the easiest way for language to pour. Especially in relationship to cash.”
  • Thirty years after the Chernobyl accident, the Zone remains a strange kind of literary center: “the Zone has spawned a literary genre of its own. Indeed, it seemed instantly to pass into myth, even possessing its own poetic language. The soldiers and firefighters who cleaned up the site—many of whom died from exposure—are referred to as the liquidators. Reactor Four remains encased in a concrete-and-steel shell known as the sarcophagus. In the Zone, there is a Red Forest; there was black rain … Through three decades of literary response, Chernobyl has undermined the sort of authoritative depiction that might bring closure. But something closed can be forgotten. The finest works express profound doubts about the power of language to absorb a disaster of this magnitude, and so continually reopen it to new ways of being remembered.”
  • Midcentury British boarding-school novels—sensible, stuffy, strict—wouldn’t seem to offer much in the way of contemporary ethical guidance. But Nakul Krishna, reading Edith Blyton’s school stories, begs to differ: “The schoolgirl’s hell is not, as a character in Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit (1944) memorably puts it, other people; her hell is the isolated self, incapable of getting outside itself. Time and again, the girls must be brought to their lowest ebb (ostracism, betrayal, near-fatal illness or, worse, near-expulsion) before they are offered a glimpse of self-knowledge and the chance to get back on their moral feet. Sometimes an apology will do it, or an acknowledgement, or some gesture of recompense to those harmed. But Blyton, like life, can be brutal: not every character is redeemed by the end of the series, and no character is straightforwardly rid of her vices. There is only the lifelong challenge of acknowledging the reality of other people.”

California Dreamin’

July 7, 2015 | by

Stanley Mouse and the sixties psych-rock aesthetic.

40-41 hot rod 1

Get Bent.


If I were to pick half a dozen of the definitive 1960’s people, Stanley Mouse would be one of them. —Bill Graham

Read any book about the sixties scene in San Francisco and you’ll run into Stanley “Mouse” Miller. Born in Fresno and raised in Detroit, Mouse moved to San Francisco in 1965, where he was commissioned by the concert organizer Bill Graham to illustrate the rock posters for which he would become best known. Mouse spent the years around the Summer of Love hocking T-shirts, designing posters for hundred-dollar commissions, running a successful hot-rod memorabilia company, and eventually designing album covers for the likes of the Grateful Dead, Journey, Neil Young, and Jimi Hendrix.

A new book, California Dreams, pays tribute to Mouse’s imagination and colorful, explosive aesthetic. He honed his style on the hot-rod scene in Detroit, where he pinstriped cars, sold T-shirts featuring drag-racing characters, and custom painted dashboards for six-packs of beer, all while still in high school. His early art portrays the speed and metal of American automobiles, but it’s also heavily influenced by the deformed monsters who took center stage in the golden age of TV sci-fi circa the 1950s, a cathartic genre for post–A-bomb Americans and their cold war anxieties. Read More »

A Kind of Sleaze

January 12, 2015 | by


The New York Observer has an excellent new interview with Robert Crumb, whose response to the Charlie Hebdo attack appeared in Libération this weekend. Crumb has lived in France for a quarter of a century—in typical fashion, he was moved to respond not by any sort of ethical imperative but because he worried what people would say about him if he stayed quiet: “Where’s Crumb? Why doesn’t he come forward? What the hell’s the matter with him?” And, as he makes clear in the interview, his aim was not to be controversial, but personal:

Libération called me and said, “Crumb, can you do a cartoon for us? About what you think about this, you know, you are a major cartoonist, and you live in France.” So I thought about it. I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I’m doing the dishes, or whatever, I was thinking, “What should I do for that cartoon … ” I had a lot of ideas. Other people come up with these, you know, clever cartoons that comment on it, like … This one guy did a cartoon showing a bloody dead body laying there, and a radical Muslim standing over him with a Kalashnikov, saying, “He drew first!” Stuff like that. That’s good, that’s clever, you know, I like that. But, me? I gotta like, you know, when I do something, it has to be more personal. I said, first: “I don’t have the courage to make an insulting cartoon of Muhammed.”

Then I thought, “OK, I’m the Cowardly Cartoonist … As a Cowardly Cartoonist, I can’t make some glib comment like that, you know? I have to, like, make fun of myself.  So instead of drawing the face of Muhammed [laughs], I drew the ass of Muhammed.  [Laughs.] But then I had myself saying, in small lettering, “Actually, this is the ass of my friend of Mohamid Bakshi, who’s a film director in Los Angeles, California.” So if they come at me, I’m gonna say, “No, look, it’s not Muhammed the Prophet, it’s this guy, Mohamid Bakshi.” So, you know.

[…] So, then Aline [Crumb’s wife] had this idea for another cartoon, which we also sent to Libération, a collaboration, that’s showing her looking at the drawing saying, “Oh, my God, they’re going to come after us! This is terrible … I want to live to see my grandchildren!” And then she has me saying, “Well, it’s not that bad. And, besides, they’ve killed enough cartoonists, maybe they’ve gotten it out of their system.”

You can read the whole interview here. (Mohamid Bakshi, by the way, is a pointed reference to Ralph Bakshi, a director and animator with whom Crumb has feuded for some forty years over the rights to Crumb’s iconic Fritz the Cat character.)

Crumb also gave the first interview in our Art of Comics series in 2010, in which he remarks on the reputation of cartoonists and comic-book artists, who in the not-so-distant past were not regarded as artists at all: Read More »


The Eye of the Storm

January 22, 2013 | by

Alan Shenker, an artist known among the underground cartoonists of the late sixties as Yossarian, died last week, in New York, at the age of sixty-seven. Born in Levittown, he was a downtown habitué and his work was published in the East Village Other, among many other publications of the era.

A kind of ruthless patricide was implicit in Yossarian’s cover art for the February 1972 issue of the New York ACE. He was close to “the Arab,” as the East Village Other’s editor, Yaakov Kohn, was known, and now Yossarian was one of the defectors from the already tottering EVO to the new paper which I’d cofounded with Robert “Honest Bob” Singer. Read More »