Crumb’s Genesis

Courtesy the artist; Paul Morris; and David Zwirner, New York.

Wow, R. Crumb is everywhere these days. He’s in the New York Times and, as of this Saturday,  his new work will be on display at UCLA’s Hammer Museum and his new book The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb will hit the stores.

Apparently Crumb, who has lived in the south of France with his wife Aline since the late 1980s, became interested in ancient Sumerian mythology about fifteen years ago, and when he learned that Sumerian myths are very similar to the book of Genesis, he started reading Genesis, and then he got the crazy idea to illustrate it…

The book—and the UCLA exhibition—both contain 207 black and white drawings containing every single word found in all 50 chapters of Genesis. What an ambitious project. Apparently, his publisher gave him two years to finish it and it took four. As Crumb writes in the book’s brief introduction, he approached this as “a straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.”

In the New York Times piece, Crumb also refutes any claims that his book is a scandalous satire (so don’t get your hopes up):

I had no intention to scandalize the Bible […] I was intrigued by the challenge of exposing everything in there by illustrating it. The text is so significant in our culture, to bring everything out was a significant enough purpose for doing it.

It sounds like his critics might be disappointed. I mean, the Bible already has its fair share of sex and violence, so I don’t think anybody needs to embellish this, even R. Crumb. I’m really curious to see how he handles this material; for me, it’s more about the history of the human race than it is about religion. These stories have had and continue to have a huge impact on our culture. Even for those of us who are less than keen on the whole religion thing, these stories still seep into our lives in ways we don’t even realize.

Over at the New York Times, Crumb offers his perspective on the story of Abraham and Isaac, pushy women, crazy people, etc.:

Abraham is kind of a take-charge dude. But even Abraham gets pushed around by his wife. They all get pushed around by their wives. The matriarchal traditions, which were suppressed when the priestly class modified these old myths for the Bible, come through more strongly when the stories are illustrated. The fact that people can persist in the information age to take this as a fundamental word of God, words to live by, rules to live by, that’s really crazy to me.

If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend the slide show that contains Crumb’s own commentary on the work over at the Times. You can see it here.

Also, if you’re in LA, Crumb will make a rare public appearance at UCLA on October 29th. He will join “longtime friend and art editor for The New Yorker, Françoise Mouly, for a candid discussion about the controversial artist’s life and his highly anticipated new project, an illustrated version of Genesis.” You can get tickets here.


~ by Valerie Palmer on October 22, 2009.

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