"I lived out my youth on paper, basically. I am a bookmaker. I see blank books, I want to fill them—notebooks, sketchbooks, blank pages.... I had ideas for comic strips that I had sketched down." — R. Crumb
A search for the source of R. Crumb’s most famous work leads back to the artist’s early drawings. Made during the 1960s in ink or pencil on notebook paper, they offer unparalleled insight into the thoughts, ideas, and obsessions that continue to populate his mature work. A number of these sketches originate in what Crumb has called a "crazy visionary period," in which many of his signature commentaries and characters—among them Mr. Natural, the bearded guru-cum-charlatan seen here in selected series from the 1990s—came into being. While often created spontaneously, the pageant of figures and narratives found here is already sophisticated; sometimes signed and dated, these drawings convey a world of intention and energy at the heart of Crumb’s practice. "Above all," Alfred M. Fischer writes, "he practiced what he preached: not follow any specific direction, not ride any specific idea to death, that is to say, when necessary, just break loose and let ideas leading to new things develop by easy and frivolous playing around across the pages of a sketchbook."
This Viewing Room is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Drawing for Print: Mind Fucks, Kultur Klashes, Pulp Fiction & Pulp Fact by the Illustrious R. Crumb, on view through April 13, 2019 at 519 West 19th Street New York.
Image: R. Crumb, Very Funny Mr. Snoid, c. 1960s (detail)