Robert Crumb (Pocket Essential Series) By D.K. Holm
English | Oldcastle Books; 2nd edition (March 1, 2005) | ISBN-10: 190404851X | 96 pages | PDF | 549 KB
It amazes (and dismays) me that there's no serious secondary work on the art of R. Crumb. He's one of the most important artistic voices to come out of late twentieth-century America. His satiric comix offer social criticism, invite us to rethink sexual and racial taboos, and delight us with their skillful and beautiful artwork. Crumb's influence on a whole generation of artists, literati, musicians, cultural commentators, and ordinary guys like me is undisputed. Yet the scholars insist on ignoring him, and this is bothersome.
That's why D.K. Holm's little book is refreshing, even though inadequate. It's relatively up to date, appearing merely five years ago, and ends with a 2002 interview with Crumb(which is also reprinted in Holm's R. Crumb: Conversations, University of Mississippi Press). Moreover, the book provides a decent overview of Crumb's life and career, although curiously the biographical chapters get thinner as the book progresses and Crumb ages; you'd think just the opposite ought to happen. Finally, Holm offers pretty good synopses of some of Crumb's most pivotal work, including (somewhat uncritical) evaluations of it. Along the way, Holm briefly discusses some of the influences on Crumb, a few of the themes in his work, and the phases his work has gone through: from greeting card stuff to the LSD-inspired breakthrough to the years of despair, to the move toward realism to the latest (although only mentioned) "mystic" stage. All this is to the good and Holm is to be thanked. But it's all too brief, too impressionistic, too sketchy. What we really need is someone (Robert Hughes, perhaps?) either to put together a collection of critical essays on Crumb the artist/thinker/iconoclast, or to write a booklength critical examination of him. But until that time comes, Holm's little book is at least something.