Opening Reception, Saturday January 17 - 8:00 – 11:30 p.m.
CoproNason gallery presents an exhibition of drawings and a few paintings by artists that evolved from the underground art movement of the 1960's and authors of Zap Comix, the most famous underground art comic of the time. R. Crumb, Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson & Rick Griffin were at the forefront of this movement. In the latter half of the 1960s the hippie movement in America was engaged, to a greater or lesser extent, with protests against the Vietnam War, the civil rights struggle, anarchism, Women's Lib and Gay Liberation. Add to this an interest in the spiritual value of taking drugs and of "free love" and you had, very simplistically speaking, a thriving "counterculture" against traditional values. For this reason, these new comics became known as "comix" to set them apart from mainstream comics and to emphasize the "x" for x-rated.
Robert Dennis Crumb often credited simply as R. Crumb was born in Philadelphia in 1943. As a kid, he started drawing homemade comic books, together with his brother Charles, for the amusement of himself and his family. One of the characters he invented back then was Fred the Cat, named after the family's pet. Eventually, Fred became Fritz the Cat, one of Crumb's best-known characters. In January 1967, Crumb moved to California, where he did some comics for a magazine called Yarrowstalks. His work was so well received they asked him to do a whole comic book, and soon the first issue of Zap was ready. The publisher however disappeared with all of the original artwork. Crumb, who had not only saved xeroxes of his work, but was already halfway with the next issue of Zap, found Don Donahue and Charles Plymell willing to publish it. So it is that the material for the second Zap comic was published as Zap #1, after which the older material for the first issue was printed as Zap #0. All of these have become collector's items. Zap Comix became a success, and soon other artists, like Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson, Rick Griffin and many others began contributing. Crumb credits L.S.D. as one of the major influences of Zap Comix nad it's creation. . Currently Crumb intends to publish "Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis" which is an adaptation of the Bible's first chapter.
Robert Williams pursued a fine art carreer before he began as part of the trail-blazing Zap collective. His mix of California car culture, cinematic apocalypticism and film noir helped to create a new genre of psychedelic imagery and Kustom Kulture along with artists like Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and Von Dutch. Of the moniker Lowbrow Williams steadfastly denies that the term was ever meant to define the movement, but was merely used in the title of his first book "The Lowbrow art of Robert Williams" and he maintains that the movement should be referred to as 'cartoon-tainted abstract surrealism.'
During the 1980's he helped pioneer the first breakaway art movement in California at the Underground art galleries and punk rock after hour clubs. His use of cartoon figuration and psycedelic colors became a hallmark to a new style of oil painting. His influence on alternative art is seminal and much of the art we see today is influenced in one way or another by those roots.
S. Clay Wilson is a central figure in the underground comix movement. He is known for aggressively violent and sexually explicit panoramas of "lowlife," often depicting the wild escapades of pirates and bikers. He was an early contributor to Zap Comix , and Wilson's artistic audacity has been cited by R. Crumb as a liberating source of inspiration for Crumb's own work. A striking feature of S. Clay Wilson's work is the contrast between the literate way in which his characters spoke and thought and the depraved violence in which they engage. Wilson's later work became more ghoulish, featuring zombie pirates and visualizations of the Virgin of Guadalupe as a rotting vampire mother. In many respects, however, his work has remained consistent since his emergence in the 1960s. In contrast to the many countercultural figures who have moderated their more extreme tendencies and successfully assimilated into the mainstream of commercial culture, S. Clay Wilson's work has remained troubling to mainstream sensibilities and is defiantly ill-mannered.
Rick Griffin was one of the leading designers of psychedelic posters in the 1960s and was closely identified with the Grateful Dead, having designed some of their best known posters and record jackets. He was also a contributor to the underground comix movement whose work appeared regularly in Zap Comix. He was also known for his work within the surfing subculture, including his comic strip about a surfer named "Murphy". In 1991, Rick Griffin was killed in a motorcycle accident in Petaluma, California.