Friday, September 5, 2008

Barging Past the Limits of Good Taste

The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia is currently hosting an exhibit of more than 100 works by comic artist R(obert) Crumb.

The show's curators describe his style as "a brilliant combination of classical storytelling and crass commercialism, expressed in a vibrant symbolic language harking back to 'old time' cartooning."

Ken Johnson of The New York Times observes in his profile:
The influence of LSD, which Mr. Crumb has called his "road to Damascus," is evident in works of funky surrealism from the '60s and '70s. The classic "Meatball" (1967), in which ordinary people from all walks of life are hit from out of the blue by consciousness-altering meatballs, is mysteriously trippy.
But what is also appealing in Mr. Crumb's work is how often it is grounded in mundane reality. "Lap o' Luxury" (1977), at 10 pages one of his longer productions, tells in detail all the events in one afternoon in the life of a little boy at home with his mom and his pesky younger brother. At one point he becomes sexually aroused by the cowboy boots on a woman who comes for a brief visit, but otherwise it is all good, clean fun ...
Whatever the aesthetic and formal attractions of his work, Mr. Crumb’s penchant for barging past the limits of good taste and political correctness into psychologically juicy and dangerously complicated territory is still the main draw.
TUFL maintains a sizable collection of R. Crumb titles, including The Complete Crumb and the biographical documentary titled simply, Crumb.

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