Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crumb and Mouly on the Carpenter's stage

Robert Crumb, known to his legions of fans as R. Crumb, spent an hour-and-a-half on the Carpenter Theatre's stage tonight. He was interviewed, or perhaps guided through the presentation, by an old friend -- Fran├žoise Mouly, art editor at The New Yorker. In the 1980s she published (and co-edited with her husband, Art Spiegelman) a series of comic book anthologies, under the masthead of "RAW" (I still have some of them).

Crumb did a pratfall when he came on stage. Then he popped up and laughed. Hey, this guy is 66 years old!

The Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond sponsored the show.

Mouly and Crumb sat in comfortable chairs. There was a laptop on a table between them. Mouly used the computer to put images on a large screen behind them that illustrated what they were talking about. With her French accent, she was utterly charming in her handling of a gentle old friend, who is a notorious curmudgeon.

Half of the presentation was about the old Zap Comix days, etc., the other half was about Crumb's latest project, his take on the first book of the Bible -- "The Book of Genesis, Illustrated by R. Crumb."

For those, like me, who've been familiar with his work for a good while, there were few real surprises. The pleasure was in seeing firsthand that Crumb is the guy we've thought he was all along. He was playful and quick-witted.

To finish the evening Crumb took questions from the audience, which brought out his wiseass side a little more. Overall, he appeared to be enjoying himself, although he seemed most pleased when it was over.

On his way out, the lanky Crumb did another goofy tumble onto the stage, then got up like a man 25 years younger than he is, and waved goodbye.

-- Image from Crumbproducts.com

Update: Here's Harry Kollatz's take on the same show -- click here.


ziegfeldgirl said...

Nice review - thanks so much. I am new to R. Crumb (my husband is the former Don bone of Throttle, so I sort of married into it), so I did learn a great deal about his work.

I have to disagree about Francoise Mouly, though. I found her pedantic explanations of his work - to the artist, no less - insufferable. He, however, was exceptionally charming as he listened to her drone on, replying affably, "Oh? Oh, really? How interesting."

F.T. Rea said...

ziegfeldgirl, I can appreciate your point about Mouly's performance.

However, my take on it was different than yours. I think she was playing straight-man. Crumb has always enjoyed laughing off the art history types who profess to see significant fine art in his cheaply produced pop culture art.

But, then he loves it, too. Crumb is a walking, and falling down, mass of contradictions.

So, I saw it as Mouly, his old friend, helping Crumb be Crumb ... and, letting him be the star.