Two Godfathers

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“The artists who had the greatest influence on Underground comix, such as Carl Barks, Harvey Kurtzman, and Basil Wolverton, tended to be “auteurs” in the pure sense.” Donald Ault

On Oct 15, 2016, Patrick Rosenkranz will open UNDERGROUND USA with a talk about Carl Barks (1901 – 2000) and Basil Wolverton (1909 – 1978), two self taught Oregon artists, born before comic books existed, who helped map out the possibilities of this new mass medium.

How did they do it?

What did they do?

Few people realize Carl Barks and Basil Wolverton were from Oregon. So in 2010, when Portland Art Museum opened an exhibit of Robert Crumb’s Genesis, Oregon Cartoon Institute partnered with Karl Lind Films to make a short video about the influence Barks and Wolverton had on the work of that famed underground cartoonist.

Basil Wolverton is famous now for his good natured grotesquerie. But from 1953 to 1974, the years he drew Topps trading cards and Mad magazine covers, he was also engaged in a long term project to illustrate the Bible.

In 2009, the original artwork for The Wolverton Bible was exhibited in a New York art gallery, earning this rave review:

“I love that Wolverton’s Adam and Eve look like Cary Grant and Rita Hayworth, and that the images of Noah’s Ark have the beautifully clean look of a wood carving. Dramatic scenes such as Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the devastation brought by locusts, and Samson’s blinding, showcase the artist’s talent for visceral, visual storytelling.

What was Charles Boucher’s interpretation of the difference between Crumb’s approach to these ancient stories, in Genesis, and Wolverton’s?  Watch the video to find out!

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Eve by Wolverton, Eve by Crumb

Working together, filmmaker Karl Lind, historian Patrick Rosenkranz and CounterMedia owner Charles Boucher delivered a concise accessible appreciation of the Barks/Wolverton/Crumb triangle.

UNDERGROUND USA is a day of talks and conversations with a group of comics friendly writers and artists with national careers, all of whom began in Portland’s underground press. One of them, Patrick Rosenkranz, will start things off with a keynote address about Barks and Wolverton, two early figures in Oregon’s magnificent pop history.

Here’s where you buy tickets for UNDERGROUND USA. See you there!

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UNDERGROUND USA is a public history/art education event made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation. It is presented by Oregon Cartoon Institute in partnership with UO Comics & Cartooning Studies and PSU Comic Studies, with support from Oregon Historical Society and McMenamins.

Comic City USA  is at Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Ave, until Jan. 31, 2017.

“People who read them when they first came out remember the initial impact — like getting whacked in the head with a two by four.” Patrick Rosenkranz, on underground comics

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