"R. Crumb's Underground"

How and why R. Crumb captured the ‘60s in ink

I could never get into my brother’s comic books, with all those rippling, shaded muscles and dark backstories. Yet the 1960s cartoon caricatures of Robert Crumb, which did appeal to me—I even named my cat Fritz—had way more depth than all the shading in the world could have afforded my brother’s superheroes. With characters based on American archetypes—Flakey Foont, Angelfood McSpade, Devil Girl, Mr. Natural, Fritz the Cat—Crumb explored the complexities of the human condition. Of course, I didn’t entirely grasp all that when I was 10. The Frye’s "R. Crumb’s Underground" exhibit will be more than just comics, though; there’s a dark backstory to boot. “I was quite miserable for a good chunk of my youth,” Crumb told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I was chronically depressed between the ages of 17 and 25. Suicidal depressed … I felt like an invisible ghost moving but not able to affect anything around me … I lived those years on paper.” Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., 622-9250, www.fryeart.org. Runs through April 27. JEN HARPER

Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Jan. 18. Continues through April 27, 2008

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