From Janis to Genesis

Aside from just about every one of his comic strips over the past 40 years, my favorite R. Crumb image is his album cover design for Cheap Thrills (below), by Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company. I recall when Janis introduced it at the Fillmore East, it was an important moment in the genesis of Crumb’s artistic career. Now Crumb is classically illustrating The Book of Genesis, which last week was excerpted in The New Yorker. Needless to say, it’s a tour de force, but “The first book of the bible graphically depicted” is not, given this sampling, necessarily a measure of Crumb’s genius. The story is not satire or comic condensation but rather a verbatim re-telling of the origins of our species–spiritually speaking. The art is interpretative, and a rather literal interpretation at that. Crumb’s first chapter, starring the ill-fated Adam and Eve, is full of visual details; but throughout the story I was anticipating something Crumbian to emerge. Instead, Genesis was just as I remember it from grade school.

Read an interview with Crumb and Robert Hughes here.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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