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The Crumby Details

Last night I was thinking back to the excellent and disturbing documentary, Crumb. The movie came out in 1994 and created a disturbing, yet strangely uplifting portrait of comic artist R. Crumb.

What came back to me last night was a moment in the movie where we watch the artist draw a scene while he's sitting at an outdoor table. He's just sketching the street scene, but the focus of his drawing are all the objects that have really become invisible to us: the wires, the utility poles, the curbs, the trash cans, the street lights and such. His composition soon becomes crowded and almost alive with the flotsam and jetsam of our modern world.

It reminded me of his "Short History of America" comic strip, in which we see a rural life overtaken by the concrete and wires of a modern world:


What intrigues me the most is the way in which Crumb uses the technique of caricature (the exaggeration of features) on an urban landscape, and he pulls to the forefront of our attention those items of our own creation that are so prevalent that they have become invisible. He sees what we no longer see, and in his drawing, calls our attention to those objects, allowing us to view the familiar as something new, and often quite alien.