Vocational Training (detail), 1984
Published in A Child's Life and Other Stories
Ink on board on three sheets
9.5 x 12.5 inches
Kim Deitch (b. 1944)
The Supreme, 1969
Published in The East Village Other
Ink on board
23 x 23 inches
Robert Crumb (b. 1943)
Mr. Natural in: What this Country Needs is a Return to Spiritual Values (detail), 1973
Published in Zap Comix #6
Ink on paper
13.75 x 11 inches
The Underground is Always Outside
Curators: Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Dan Nadel
Artists: Robert Armstrong, Michelle Brand, Robert Crumb, Kim Deitch, Phoebe Gloeckner, Justin Green, Rick Griffin, Bill Griffith, Rory Hayes, Jay Kinney, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Jay Lynch, Michael McMillan, Willy Mendes, Willy Murphy, Diane Noomin, Trina Robbins, Spain Rodriguez, Sharon Rudahl, Gilbert Shelton, Art Spiegelman, Carol Tyler, Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson et Julie Wood.
Underground comics remain one of the most misunderstood artforms. Born of the liberatory impulse of the 1960s American counterculture and honed in the 1970s and ‘80s, it has offered innumerable artists an outlet for trenchant cultural commentary, absurdist humor, psychedelic flowerings, confessional autobiography, and all-out fantasy. Nevertheless, The tremendous visual, narrative, and emotional diversity of underground comics has rarely been examined as a form of drawing. This exhibition, organized by pioneering underground cartoonist Aline Kominsky-Crumb and curator Dan Nadel offers an overview of the many ways artists used the form to create compelling images and stories.
The exhibition focuses on original comic art by canonical figures such as Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Bill Griffith, Art Spiegelman, Spain Rodriguez, Robert Williams and S. Clay Wilson, alongside their equally fascinating, if lesser-known peers, among them the great female cartoonists of the time, who brought scathing personal politics and memoirs to the field – Phoebe Gloeckner, Diane Noomin, Willy Mendes, Sharon Rudahl, and artists who arrived into comics with perspectives that were immersed in surreal or avant garde impulses, including Rory Hayes, Michael McMillan, and Jewelie Goodvibes. Ultimately, the American underground was a place where outsiders could flourish. It was about as far out as one could get, forever teetering on the edge of art and acceptability.
Since 1971, Aline Kominsky-Crumb has been a pioneering figure in the world of comics. Born Aline Goldsmith in Long Island, New York, in 1948, Kominsky-Crumb earned her BFA from the University of Arizona, Tucson, in 1971. Kominsky-Crumb was one of the first contributors to the all-female anthology Wimmen’s Comix in 1971, founded the seminal comics series Twisted Sisters with Diane Noomin in 1976, and, during the 1980s, served as editor for the influential alternative comics anthology Weirdo, to which she also contributed throughout its run. In 2018, an expanded edition of the artist’s 1990 publication Love That Bunch, featuring cartoons, drawings, and illustrations from throughout her career, was published by Drawn & Quarterly. She most recently exhibited at David Zwirner, Paris, with her husband, Robert Crumb, and daughter, Sophie Crumb in an exhibition entitled Sauve qui peut ! (Run for Your Life)
Dan Nadel was most recently the Curator at Large for the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis, where organized exhibitions on Kathy Butterly, Mary Heilmann, and William T. Wiley. Nadel is the editor of several books, including Peter Saul: Professional Artist Correspondence; The Collected Hairy Who Publications, 1966–1969; and It’s Life as I See It: Black Cartoonists in Chicago, 1940–1980. He has also curated exhibitions including What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art: 1960 to the Present; Gertrude Abercrombie; Spain Rodriguez: Hard-Ass Friday Nite, and, recently, Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Nadel, a 2021–2022 Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center, CUNY, is currently at work on the biography of underground comic artist Robert Crumb to be published by Scribner.