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A comic book bible comes to Columbus Museum of Art

Illustration courtesy of The Columbus Art Museum

R. Crumb might not be a household name, but his drawings and cartoons have made an impact on popular culture.

The artist, whose full name is Robert Crumb, was born in Philadelphia in 1943 and began drawing comics as a young boy. Some of Crumb’s more notable characters include Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural.

On exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art, Crumb’s collection “The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis,” illustrates every chapter from the first book of the Bible.

Crumb’s artwork might be recognizable from the album cover art for “Cheap Thrills” by Janis Joplin’s band Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead’s compilation album “The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead.”

His more recent drawings have included “The Book of Genesis Illustrated,” which was published in October 2009. Crumb spent five years rendering all the text and every character by hand.

“It’s organized in the exhibition like it is in the book, chronologically like the Book of Genesis,” said Sarah Stifler, director of communications for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, which organized the exhibit.

The exhibition features 207 individual black-and-white drawings incorporating every word from all 50 chapters, with each drawing containing six to eight comic panels.

Some of the more notable stories from the Book of Genesis include Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, Joseph and the coat of many colors, and Sodom and Gomorrah.

The cover of the book warns, “Adult supervision recommended for minors.”

Women tend to be represented as voluptuous man-eaters, and many of the men are depicted as human — evil and weak.

To bring Crumb’s presentation to Columbus, the Hammer Museum contacted Lisa Dent, associate curator of contemporary art at the Columbus Museum of Art.

“The curator thought Columbus would be a great place for the show because of the large number of cartoon enthusiasts in the area,” Dent said in an e-mail.

The Columbus Museum of Art will exhibit Crumb’s “Genesis” now through Jan. 16, 2011.

Jared Gardner, an associate professor of English and film at OSU, will give a lecture on Crumb Nov. 7 at the Columbus Museum of Art.

“I will spend a little time positioning Genesis in relationship to Crumb’s career as a whole (which of course goes back to the mid-’60s), and I will also talk about the long history of comic adaptations of the Bible,” Gardner said in an e-mail. “After that, we’ll talk through the gallery and focus on a few of the images closely.”

“He brings together the wild experimentalism and sensuality of the underground “comix” movement of the late 1960s with his earlier training as a commercial greeting card artist for American Greetings in Cleveland.”

Crumb, who lives in France, said “I don’t know if I would have done ‘Genesis’ if I was still living (in the U.S.).”

 

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