PARIS — From the drug dens of Haight-Ashbury to the temple of modern art in Paris’ posh 16th arrondissement, Robert Crumb has made it.
The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris has mounted a monster exhibition for the U.S. comic artist, who became famous — some people say notorious — as the epitome of California’s counterculture in the late 1960s.
Crumb’s cultural consecration doesn’t lack irony: He has always refused to be part of the official art scene and has never hidden his contempt for the avant-garde.
His drawings are neither thin nor abstract. Delineated with forceful strokes, they look like etchings. In etchings, though, you would hardly find speech bubbles with exclamations such as “Gotcha!” “Whoop!” or “Aaaarghh!”
Crumb was born in 1943 in Philadelphia and has been living since the early 1990s in the south of France. He made his name with Fritz the Cat, Whiteman, Devil Girl, Mr. Natural and other raucously irreverent characters.
Because his books, unlike mainstream comics, didn’t shy away from depicting drugs, sex and violence, Crumb called them “comix,” the X indicating that they were for adults.
Yet Crumb also published “Kafka for Beginners” and an illustrated version of the Book of Genesis with personal annotations, a work that kept him busy for four years. The museum presents it complete in a separate room — an odd contrast to the defiantly low-brow rest.
His disdainful attitude toward modern art notwithstanding, the show has had respectful reviews in French newspapers.