Crumb’s work has never been about conforming to others’ ideals, and in pursuing his own tastes, he’s often alienated himself. “Robert really does not have a filter,” Morris explains. “What you see is a hyper-honest account of his desires and fantasies.” The curator emphasizes that Crumb’s works are expressions of love and respect, not cultural commentaries. “I know that Robert often works from images of women that he has found in popular culture, but he selects these images per his own desires. I don’t think he is looking to make a comment on all of culture. These are deeply personal choices.” Crumb’s self-reflexive captions remind us of this fact, and he has often referenced his own problematic and uneasy relationship with women and sex in his work, including his comic book, My Troubles With Women (1990). Drawing for the artist is a catharsis, a way of working out his only responses to the chaos of the world—including the developments in contemporary culture. “Considering what he has drawn from in the past, it only makes sense that in 2016 he could be inspired by a mania that has led to equipment like a selfie stick,” Morris muses.
Perhaps the way Crumb sees women is best understood through the Picasso aphorism that’s planted in a work from Art & Beauty Magazine, Number 2 (2003), under a drawing of a bikini-clad shero in a warrior pose: “...I put all the things I like into my pictures, the things—so much worse for them; they just have to put up with it.”
Crumb clearly likes women and he’ll continue to draw them in the way he wants. But his works on women give the viewer much more than an understanding of his individual sexual desire. Out in the world, with a life of their own, the bigger question these drawings pose is, how do we see women?