Sophie Crumb has had a busy fall season. Her solo debut show at DCKT Contemporary (through December 30) coincided with the release of her first book, Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist, a collection of drawings and sketches that stretch back to the 29-year-old artist’s childhood. Although she was born in Southern California, Crumb’s parents (infamous underground cartoonists R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb) moved the family to rural France to escape the factions of American culture they deemed less savory. But her drawings prove that Crumb didn’t escape the clutches of Hollywood (can anyone?). Instead, she uses celebrity culture to inform her work, inverting the Hollywood fishbowl.
While Crumb’s dark wit is clear in her multi-panel comics, the majority of the show deals with the female experience. The gallery’s south wall is lined with Crumb’s recreations of French tabloids, "candid" celebrity portraits punctuated with bright and punchy captions: Paris Hilton frolics on a beach, "Blindsay Blohan" emerges from a swimming pool. Crumb’s drawings of these women critique unhealthy beauty standards without even trying. While viewers may be desensitized to photographs of the ultra-thin female, this fetishized form looks painful, grotesque even, when rendered by Crumb’s hand; the joints where Hilton’s hands meet wrists are overlarge and bulky, and the angles of "Blohan’s" hip bones are revealed as far too sharp. Giant, artificial breasts on a model dancing at a club look overstuffed and painfully hard. And famous men aren’t exempt either. Chad Michael Murray and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino of Jersey Shore fame leer out at the viewer, looking just as flat and harmless as Crumb deems them useless.
Crumb’s paintings take on a more somber tone along the gallery’s north wall. The starlets have been replaced by anonymous women. Here, there is a palpable sense that something is at stake. A young girl points languidly over her head, trouble evident in her furrowed brow. In "Tit ‘N Gun" (2008), a mother stares stonily out from her frame, a child at her breast and a gun in her hand. "Milkshake" (2010), a hand-drawn copy of a photograph from Vice Magazine, shows a female gazing benignly outward, her breasts exposed, and a soft drink in her hand. Crumb hand copied the caption that appeared under the photo onto her drawing, which reads: "She was drinking a milkshake and I asked her to pull her shirt down." Taking the image out of context, Crumb reveals the absurdity of this gratuitous show of flesh. Judging by her drawings alone, it may take more convincing to diagnose Crumb as crazy. Instead, it’s the rest of the world
that looks insane.
(images courtesy the artist, DCKT Contemporary)