Sunday, May 3, 2009

May 4, 2009 - Art is Mr. Natural

Friday night I went to the Chazen Museum for the opening of an exhibit called "Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix, 1963-1990." When I was in college in Cincinnati I had a roommate who collected underground comix, mainly from an artist by the name of R. Crumb. I can't imagine that you haven't heard of him or at the very least seen his most famous images and characters—"Keep On Truckin," Mr. Natural, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Fat Freddie's Cat to name a few. The comix were a celebration of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll and quite a departure from the mainstream super hero comic books. They were also part of a rebellion against mainstream society, commercial publishing, and conformity. For me they were also hilarious, disturbing, eye-opening, educational, titillating, and rather mind-blowing. What can I say, I led a pretty sheltered and uncorrupted life and that really hasn't changed. Although I was never a huge fan early on, over the years I have come to appreciate the sheer uninhibited originality and talent it took to create them.

The exhibit is an extensive compilation of original art, printed pages, comic book covers, original sketches, statuettes, buttons, rolling papers and much more. I also learned that unique and rebellious art wasn't the only thing that separated these artists from the mainstream. As described on the Chazen web site, underground cartoonists "received royalties for their work, retained ownership of their original art, automatically retained copyrights, developed an alternative distribution system, and reveled in an uncensored environment. This subculture challenged the economics of publishing as well as social and artistic norms." I hope you get a chance to see the exhibit. It runs until July 12th.

On a side note this weekend was absolutely gorgeous in my neck of the woods. We had a long and trying winter and very few really warm days in the month of April. Not to mention I'm finally getting over the cold that I brought back from St. Paul. But this weekend it finally felt like spring in Wisconsin and everyone was out to enjoy it. Have a great week and stay healthy everyone. m

1 comment:

Steve DeSpirito said...

Hi Mark,
Holy cow, what a small world! I was Googling to find an image of a product I worked on years ago and I came across your blog. The product I was looking for is a lamp featuring "Mr. Natural" with a base that I sculpted for Jesse and Robert Crumb back in the 90's. I guess the combination of lamp and Mr. Natural brought me here, how strange!
Crumb is definitely an interesting guy. I didn't really know much about him when I was sculpting the Mr. Natural lamp, I just worked off of sketches he gave me and the figure was kind of cute so I went with it. After that job was finished, Crumb asked me to sculpt a mini "Devil Girl" statue and I quickly learned more about the nature of Crumbs work. It wasn't my cup of tea, but after learning what a large influence he was on so many people I began to respect his work from a whole different angle so I sculpted the Devil Girl. Well, ok, maybe I just really needed the money at the time, but I'd rather tell myself that I was contributing to society by working with one of America's great artistic icons!
Great stuff on your blog, Mark. If you're inclined, feel free to surf over to mine (artinhighplaces).
Best regards,