Friday, August 20, 2010

Lot's of Drawing at the Portland Art Musuem....R. Crumb and More!

I started reading R. Crumb comics; Zap, Motor City and the like, in the 1960s. I read them when I was too young and impressionable to be subjected to such enticing perversion. I was introduced to detailed, parodied cartoon sex acts at the tender age of 8 by Crumb. I'm sure the influence marks my world view in ways I haven't figured out to this day. R. Crumb chronicled the 1960s and 1970s with dead-on wit and keen observation. It provided a fun framework for me to view people, society, myself and my loved ones.

With so much R. Crumb baggage, I have been nervous about seeing the Genesis show at the Portland Art Museum. Now that I have seen the show, I do want to get the book so that I can appreciate the work like it should be appreciated. The show was successful in that regard. I want to buy the book! It is impressive to see rows and rows of carefully drawn cartoon panels, wall after wall. The thing about the genre of comics is that it's conventions prevent the work from having much feel of painterly spontaneity. The faces of the various characters are almost all more or less the same. The backgrounds and stylizations are unwavering R. Crumb. No visual surprises. When I was a kid, I would read Eggs Ackerly's adventures with the vulture demoneses and be transported to an original, funny, and suprising, albeit pornographic new world. This mature project from a mature R. Crumb doesn't hold any of that excitement for me.

There is some other great art to see for the price of admission. Several Leon Golub paintings in the basement need to be respected. Golub devoted his career as a painter to illustrating the atrocities inflicted upon the weak by the powerful. He wasn't painting so that the wealthy class could have something to hang in their living room to match their couch. The few paintings on display don't do justice to his body of work, but they are worth seeing.

That master drawing exhibit is also great.

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