Sophie Crumb - Evolution of a Crazy Artist (4 stars)

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Sophie Crumb - Evolution of a Crazy Artist

(WW Norton)

From an early age, Robert Crumb’s maladjusted scion was the beneficiary of her parent’s archivist tendencies. His daughter’s ‘most interesting and expressive work’ was saved and now, 26 years later, the artist child revisits it and lays it out with a rare and indulgent candour. It’s difficult not to be enchanted by this beautiful volume with its gothic overtones and adolescent brio. Chronologically sorted from the scribblings of a child, all the way through hormonal imbalance, rebellion, escape, hedonism and motherhood, Evolution of a Crazy Artist has a vulnerability to it that is at once compulsive and rewarding.

With only a small introduction from her father, the occasional time-line memo and descriptions and dates on the images, this is refreshingly light on the usual semantics and self-congratulation this sort of thing promotes. It stands and falls on the artist’s talent, and her ability is never in doubt. Peppered with unflattering photographs of Crumb and her early forays into illustration and narrative, Evolution … does indeed evolve into something more than the portfolio of a gifted kid.

Each doodle or sketch brings with it the weight of youth and its inherent elations, depressions, angers, feuds and jealousies. The inherited puckish vulgarity slowly gives way to something else, something more personal, French (she now lives in the South of France with her husband and baby boy) and truthful. The pheromones of her creativity finally subdue life itself.

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