Cartoon artist R Crumb (b. 1943, Philadelphia)is best known for his scatalogical ink drawings for mainstream magazines like Rolling Stone to accompany the work of Hunter S Thompson, and the seminal journal he founded, Zap. So his latest project, a fully illustrated comic-style rendering of the Book of Genesis, comprised of 207 individual works in pen and ink,might surprise you. Currently on view at David Zwirner (through April 17), the illustrations have taken Crumb five years to complete. Here are the facts on Crumb.
1. Robert Crumb’s grandfather, Winifred Crumb, was a frontiersman, and he and his wife Mary had fourteen children, one of whom was Charles (Chuck), Robert’s father (Crumb’s family tree going back five generations is charted on the artist’s website). Chuck was in the Marine Corps, and the family moved around a great deal during Robert’s childhood, but never abandoned religion. Crumb was a devout Catholic until the age of sixteen.
2. After high school, Crumb moved to Cleveland, where he was hired by the American Greetings Corporation as a color separator. He soon advanced to card illustrator, but was constantly told his images were too grotesque and that he needed to make his work “cuter.”
3. In what established Crumb as the founder of the underground comix movement, Crumb released the first issue of Zap Comix in 1968. However, what was published as Zap Comix #1 was in fact the second installment because the material for the first had been stolen. Luckily, Crumb had made copies of the comic and later re-illustrated and released the original edition as Zap Comix #0.
4. In 1969, Crumb wrote a book based on a character he had developed in his childhood, “Fritz the Cat.” He used the character in a full-length feature film, but was so dissatisfied with the project that he subsequently killed the character.