SJMA to Feature Comic Book Artist R. Crumb's Book of Genesis June 23 – September 5, 2011

  • SAN JOSE, California
  • /
  • April 27, 2011

  • Email
R. Crumb, "The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb," 2009. (title page). Ink on paper.
Courtesy the artist; Paul Morris; and David Zwi...

The San Jose Museum of Art will showcase the work of legendary underground comic artist R. Crumb this summer. The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb's Book of Genesis will be on view from June 23 through September 25, 2011. The exhibition will feature 207 individual, black-and-white drawings from Crumb's critically acclaimed 2009 adaptation of the first book of the Bible, which incorporates every word from all fifty chapters. Crumb, who is known for his underground comic creations Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural, and other characters, spent five years on this ambitious endeavor, which has garnered praise from comic book aficionados and art lovers around the world.

"R. Crumb's influence has spread far beyond the world of comics and graphic novels," said Susan Krane, Oshman Executive Director of the San Jose Museum of Art. "Many of his images are now icons of our visual culture. In his adaptation of Genesis, he has recast familiar narratives from this fundamental text of Western civilization in his instantly recognizable style and brought these stories alive for a contemporary audience."

"These beautifully drawn images, rich with detail, reflect Crumb's profoundly careful focus on his subject," said JoAnne Northrup, chief curator.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb was published by W.W. Norton in October 2009.  The exhibition incorporates Crumb's original drawings from the 224-page book, as well as a cover, title page, introduction, and back cover adaptation. Crumb drew mainly upon the King James Version of the Bible for his unabridged Genesis. Each drawing contains six to eight comic panels that illustrate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, and more, all in the artist's signature bawdy style. In his review of the book for the New York Times David Hajdu wrote, "Crumb luxuriates in the carnality of Genesis without playing it for gratuitous shock or comic effect."

"Crumb...takes on the daunting task with a fierce intelligence and the graphic skill one expects from a founding father of the radical underground comics movement," said Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight in his review of the exhibition at the Hammer Museum. "The invigorating result is the restoration of historical literary and artistic power to a world-changing narrative."


Crumb is known for drawing from everyday events and characters; he tells stories of commonplace men (sometimes modeled on himself), who chase exceptionally voluptuous women and other odd characters including gurus, seers, and talking animals. His stories illustrate the most basic human qualities: fragility, hubris, weakness, cruelty, paranoia, neuroses, fear, and shallowness. He is unabashed in his depictions of the lowest depths of misery and the dark sides of humanity, yet always maintains a sense of humor.

Born in Philadelphia in 1943, Crumb began to draw comics as a young boy. In the early 1960s he drew cards for the American Greetings Corporation. In the late 1960s he traveled to New York, Chicago, and Detroit and created many of his rambunctious and unforgettable characters, including Mr. Natural, Mr. Snoid, and Angelfood McSpade. In 1967, he moved to San Francisco, where he drew Zap #1 and Zap #2 and sold them on the street; this moment marked the beginning of his role as one of the founding fathers of the underground comic movement. Crumb's "Mr. Natural" strip ran in The Village Voice for about a year (later compiled as Mr. Natural #3). In 1981, he produced and edited a new comic magazine called Weirdo, which also included the work of other artists. Crumb's life was the subject of the 1994 documentary Crumb, directed by Terry Zwigoff. Crumb now lives and work in the south of France.

Crumb's work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; David Zwirner, New York; and Paul Morris Gallery, New York. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions and published widely. Other books by the artist include The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb, 2006 (MQ Publications, London); The R. Crumb Handbook, 2005 (MQ Publications, London); R. Crumb's Kafka, 2004 (Ibooks Graphic Novel, New York); Crumb Family Comics, 2003 (Last Gasp, San Francisco); and The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book, 1997 (Little, Brown and Company, London).

This exhibition is organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Generous support is provided by Brenda K. Potter. The San Jose Museum of Art's run of The Bible Illuminated is sponsored by McManis Faulkner.


The San Jose Museum of Art is a distinguished museum of modern and contemporary art and a lively center of arts activity in Silicon Valley. The San Jose Museum of Art is located at 110 South Market Street in downtown San Jose, California. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and free to members and children under 6. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 408-271-6840 or visit


# # #


Programs at the San Jose Museum of Art are generously supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, by operating support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the James Irvine Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; the Adobe Foundation; and the Koret Foundation; the MetLife Foundation; a Cultural Affairs grant from the City of San Jose; and, for support of exhibition development, Yvonne and Mike Nevens.



Sherrill Ingalls
San Jose Museum of Art

San Jose Museum of Art
110 South Market St
San Jose, California

  • Email

ARTFIXdaily Artwire