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Gotta Have 'Em
posted July 6, 2007
Greybull, slipcased hard cover, 224 pages, 2003, $55
0967236681 (ISBN10), 9780967236681 (ISBN13)
As a publishing project, Gotta Have 'Em: Portraits of Women
falls into one of those 'tweener areas. It has the production values, paper stock, binding, price point and printing quality of an elite R. Crumb project that might appeal to the high-end fan. It has the editorial mandate of a broader, mainstream product, singling out from more comprehensive sketchbook printings a series of portraits of women drawn by the underground comix great over several decades. If there's any cartoonist currently working that might have a fanbase big enough for two such distinct groups to overlap, and to actually draw buyers from both, it's Crumb. I received the book as a gift, and it's perfectly lovely, the kind of book that more than distinguishes itself from other volumes which might carry the same material.
As with any work that brings art from various years under one cover, one obvious wayy to approach this collection is as autobiography. The astute reader should be able to track Crumb's growing artistic skill, the people in his life, and, you probably knew you weren't going to get away from this in a Crumb book, his specific physical interests. This is made apparent in the models he chooses, the women in his own life he chooses to draw, and how he approaches each drawing. You can concentrate on the range of physical shapes, or the similarities between models, or even the words he put in some of the posers' mouths, tossed off phrases that are frequently hysterically funny. Watching Crumb draw his longtime companion Aline or to see the way he clearly adores drawing his daughter, and how he works every piece may present its own specific drawing problems, may remind us that both making great art and keeping the people closest to us happy involve seeing before acting.