View :: Robert Crumb Cancels Graphic Festival Appearance

August 9th 2011


Perenially subversive graphic artist Robert Crumb can be no stranger to moral panic. The American musician and illustrator has pissed off the entire political spectrum; the left object to his highly sexualised portrayals of women and stereotypical treatment of African Americans, while the right dry heave over his enthusiastic drug use and preoccupation with bestiality.

But this deviant visionary draws as much acclaim as condemnation. He flicked a raw nerve in the collective artistic subconscious in the 1960s underground comix movements, and has been creatively diving to deep psychological depths ever since. He is a divisive and important and admirable figure in graphic design, and he was meant to headline the Sydney Opera House's second annual Graphic Festival. Today, however, he announced he will not attend following negative coverage in Australian newspapers.

Titled "Smutty show a Comic Outrage", the Sunday Telegraph article described Crumb as a "self-confessed sex pervert" and quoted Bravehearts campaigner and Bill Henson anti-fan Hetty Johnston. Johnston criticised the "depraved thought processes of this very warped human being" and complained that "these cartoons are not funny or artistic – they are just crude and perverted images emanating from what is clearly a sick mind. Of all the brilliant artists, cartoonists and writers the Opera House could have supported, you have to wonder why they chose Robert Crumb."

The Opera House is refunding tickets sold to the event, but they can't give back broken hearts. "It's a very, very disappointing situation," said Graphic co-curator Jordan Verzar. "There were a legion of people eagerly anticipating his visit and the Graphic team and Sydney Opera House had been working for months to pull together the shows he was involved with and to supply an enjoyable first visit to Australia for him. I sincerely doubt that he will ever make it to Australia now. It's a very sad day, but I'm still excited and looking forward to the rest of the great shows happening at Graphic next weekend."

For more information and the rest of the program, head to the Sydney Opera House website.


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