R. Crumb's Book of Genesis at the Portland Art Museum, June 12 – September 19, 2010

(photo by Aaron Colter)

Robert Crumb at the Portland Art Museum?  It’s true.  All 207 individual pages from his ambitious adaptation of the Book of Genesis are on display this summer.  Seeing the artwork in person is awe inspiring.  The obsessively perfect brush strokes fill the page with black ink.  Yet all of his forms are rendered so clearly and naturally.  It’s also great to see the human touches on the page, little dabs of white out, a bit of the pencils underneath.  You can ponder the choices the artist made.  Why did he decide to white out that panel border and redo it?  The original looked fine…

I’m not sure if I’ll ever read the book from cover to cover, but at the exhibit I found myself focusing on single panels for minutes at a time.  I like how Crumb brings some excitement to even the driest parts of the story.  You know the genealogy stuff, so and so begat this guy, so and so begat these folks.

There’s an inconsequential line in chapter 26: “Esau was forty years old and he took as wives Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite.  And they were a source of provocation to Isaac and to Rebekah.”

His interpretation is as scandalous as anything you’d see on a daytime talk show.  The two women are fighting in front of a tent, pulling hair and causing a ruckus.  Maybe all that lineage stuff was more gossipy and exciting back then if you had a vague sense of who these families and tribes were.

FREE admision to the Portland Art Museum on fourth Fridays from 6-8pm.  If you’re in town I recommend seeing the exhibit at least once.  Check their schedule for a full list of events.  They have guest speakers from the comics community and drawing workshops through August.  Also the NW Film Center is presenting two screenings to coincide with the exhibit.

This summer, the Museum will present the drama and sweep of the Book of Genesis as illustrated by the internationally celebrated artist R. Crumb. Organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles for a national tour, the exhibition of more than 200 drawings is the culmination of four years of labor by Crumb to illustrate every word of the fifty chapters that make up Genesis in the Bible.

Portland Art Museum

1219 SW Park Ave

Portland, OR 97205

For more information, visit specialexhibitions.pam.org/rcrumb/.

Northwest Film Center Films


Friday, July 2, 7pm

Saturday, July 3, 4:30 and 7pm

Director: Terry Zwigoff, US 1994

This documentary focuses on R. Crumb’s seminal work in the ’60s and ’70s.  Essential viewing for visitors to the R. Crumb exhibition. (119 mins.)


Saturday, July 31, 9:15pm

Sunday, August 1, 4:30pm

Director: Ron Mann, Canada 1988

This acclaimed documentary traces comic book art from the 1930s to the 1970s. (90 mins.)

Categories: COMICS | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

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