World renown underground comix artist Robert Crumb has canceled his headline appearance at the Sydney Graphic art festival following a scathing article that appeared in the Australian Telegraph, which described the artist as as a "self-confessed sex pervert," and a "warped human being" that was "sick and deranged." Crumb, who was scheduled to give a talk on "Altered States and Creativity," explained his change of heart to The Australian: "I have a lot of anxiety about having to confront some angry sexual assault crisis group... I do these crazy cartoons ... I have no defence. I just have to throw up my hands." Later, Crumb told the Sydney Morning Herald he even feared assassination. "What if I'd gone there [to Sydney] and what if some Mark Chapman-type person who'd read that article decided that the world needed to be cleansed of scum like R. Crumb?"
It's impressive that, even today, Crumb's cartoons still have the ability to shock. Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised, though, as this is par for the course for most real artists, who, even to this day, are chronically misunderstood by the masses. What the fools at the Telegraph don't realize is that Crumb is displaying an unflinchingly honest portrayal of the darkest depths of the psyche, something very few artists have the courage to do. A whole tradition has grown out of the notion of developing a deeper awareness of human nature by transcribing the nightmarish visions of the unconscious, from the Marquis de Sade to Salvador Dali, to William Burroughs and J.G. Ballard. This creates an art of real value. Further, Crumb, like these other geniuses, accomplished the task with both humor and style.
Unfortunately, the greatest means of preventing the heinous crimes portrayed in Crumb's work is to be aware that we all have the potential to commit them. The Telegraph, it would seem, would prefer to stay ignorant.