Moving from year to year and town to town, through a revolving cast of artists and publishers, this story of revolutionary 60s art-making seeks to capture some of the frenzied scope and communal bonhomie that made the hippie counterculture click. The big names here are Robert Crumb, Robert Williams and Art Spiegelman, who emerge from the postwar era of conformity and repression into a period of broad cultural experimentation and self-discovery. Once the text moves beyond boilerplate mythmaking about San Francisco in the free love era, an interesting portrait begins to emerge-of ambitious, committed artists seeking to push their own boundaries, and with them the boundaries of society at large. In its detailed account of an art that celebrated sweating burnouts and libidinous creeps, the volume gives all the anecdotes and minutiae a reader might want. Lavishly illustrated with pages and panels from the underground press of the time (at least one per page), the book serves as a solid reference point for the developing styles of hippie draftsmanship. Crumb and co. round out a decade one-upping each other in degrees of explicitness and self-revelation, and leave behind a massive inheritance for future generations of doodlers to draw from. Illus.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The most lasting artistic legacy of the 1960s hippie movement, other than its music, is its eye-poppingly transgressive underground comics--black-and-white pamphlets that spread the counterculture message of sex, drugs, and rebellion to freak and straight alike. Rosencranz thoroughly documents the phenomenon, providing a year-by-year account of the underground scene, from 1968's Zap #1, which artist R. Crumb sold from a baby carriage on the streets of Haight Ashbury, to its crash in 1973 in the wake of obscenity rulings and a crackdown on head shops. During the period, the comics' subject matter mirrored countercultural concerns as they shifted from peace-and-love to antiwar, feminist, and other political messages. Rosencranz's writing may lack flair, but with personalities this colorful (the artists themselves provide fly-on-the-wall reminiscences) and art this outrageous (reprinted on nearly every page) to write about, who needs it? Many underground veterans, especially Crumb and Art Spiegelman, continue to produce significant, high-profile work, but their most lasting influence is seen in today's alternative-comics artists, who followed them in placing artistic expression above commercialism. Gordon Flagg
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