R. Crumb: Drawings, Prints & Books

From the collection of Dale Rose

February 3 – March 6, 2020

The Contemporary Art Galleries is pleased to present the art by cartoonist R. Crumb culled from the collection of Dale Rose. The exhibition will feature his prints, comics, sketchbooks as well as related ephemera. Instrumental in the formation of the underground comics scene in the 1960s and 1970s, Crumb has helped challenge and expand the boundaries of the graphic arts and redefined comics and cartoons as countercultural art forms. Widely circulated, often celebrated, Crumb’s published imagery, such as his comic strips Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural, and Keep on Truckin’, offers a mordant satirical critique of modern society, directly addressing political disillusionment, the never-ending battles between "squares" and bohemians, racial and gender stereotypes, sexual fantasies and fetishes, and the absurdities of social convention and conformity—themes the artist often explores through disturbing but hilariously abject self-caricature that dramatizes incidents in his own life and surroundings.

Robert Dennis Crumb—whose work displays a nostalgia for American folk culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and satire of contemporary American culture— was born in Philadelphia in 1943. R. Crumb moved to the dynamic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco in 1967 and relocated in 1991 to the south of France where he currently lives and works. The American counterculture comic book artist and social satirist is known for his distinctive artwork and excellent marriage of drawing and narrative. His work frequently features such well-known characters as Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural. Crumb’s drawing style was influenced by many earlier cartoonists—notably the Disney cartoonist Carl Banks—and his satire likewise was inspired by the irreverence of Harvey Kurtzman, a mentor of sorts whose periodicals included Mad (1954–56) and Help! (1960–65).

R.Cummings images

The product of a highly unusual family, Crumb insulated himself early by becoming a voracious reader of comic books. With his elder brother Charles he produced several comics. He graduated from high school in 1961 and the following year moved to Cleveland, where his drawing skills enabled him to find work as an illustrator for the American Greeting Card company. Three years later he joined the staff of Kurtzman’s short-lived satirical magazine Help! While at Help! Crumb introduced his best-known character, the iconoclastic and sex-obsessed Fritz the Cat.

Crumb began to contribute artwork to several “alternative” publications, and in 1967 he moved to San Francisco, settling in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. There in 1968 he published his first underground comic book, the widely distributed and highly influential Zap Comix. Also during this period, Crumb was tapped to draw the Cheap Thrills album cover for a band named Big Brother & the Holding Company, which featured the up-and-coming blues vocalist Janis Joplin.

Dale AJ Rose, recently retired professor and Director of Performance at the University of Connecticut’s Dramatic Arts Department, has been an avid collector of Crumb’s work for over five decades. Rose first came across Crumb’s work in an underground press publication while visiting Berkeley, CA, and was immediately struck by the artists unorthodox approach to comic illustration. Initially drawn to collecting his comics, Rose’s interest soon expanded to include limited edition prints, drawings, and ephemera. The Contemporary Art Galleries is pleased to present a sampling of more than fifty R. Crumb works from the collection.

My interest was in collecting the comics, the ones I thought were really intriguing … That sort of led to about in 1999 when I suddenly realized that maybe I’m really collecting his work, and I hadn’t really thought of it at that time, that that was what I was doing.
–Dale AJ Rose, 2020

R Crumb exhibit art
Dale AJ Rose, 2020