Creator of Mister Natural and Fritz the Cat, Robert Crumb is one of the most influential cartoonists of our time (his work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art). This month, he shares center stage with his wife, muse and artistic collaborator Aline Kominsky-Crumb in their current exhibition, “Drawn Together,” at Chelsea gallery David Zwirner. Recently the pair took some time to discuss their 45-year relationship, their work as collaborators and life in the French countryside.
How did you meet?
Aline Kominsky-Crumb: At a party in 1971. I was wearing a miniskirt and Robert said, “You have really cute knees.” I was taken aback because I thought that I had big muscular legs. I remember thinking, What a weird guy, but he made an impression. He had done a character named Honeybunch Kaminski. I had met some cartoonists who said, “Oh, you’re like Honeybunch Kaminski.” People thought that he must have known me and that the character was based on me, but we had actually never met.
Robert, what attracted you to Aline?
Robert Crumb: One thing is that we had great sex and another thing was that she was very funny. She was this New York Jewish hippie girl. She was very wild and promiscuous and she drank and took a lot of drugs. But her house was always very clean, which really impressed me. At my then-girlfriend’s apartment, I used to have to wade through a lot of crap.
Aline, when did you become a cartoonist?
AKC: I started drawing when I was eight. I studied painting, but it was the 1960s so everything was about Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. I couldn’t relate. I was into storytelling, and I saw comics as a medium that I could handle. I never shut up and my work doesn’t either.
When did you start working together?
RC: In 1972 we were living in the sticks. She had a little trailer and I lived in a cabin next door. She was laid up with a broken foot and was pissed at me because this other girlfriend had come to see me. So to placate her I said ,“Let’s draw a comic together.”
What was the reaction when you starting publishing them?
AKC: I’ve memorized some of the reader responses: “Maybe she’s a good lay, but keep her off the fucking page” and “Let her do the cooking; you do the cartooning.” It was a real boys’ club.
Why did you move to the south of France?
AKC: It was the result of my midlife crisis, but also the Christian right taking over our town in California. We had to get our daughter out of there. Robert’s agent had just moved to Paris so I thought, let’s live in France.
What was the biggest adjustment to living there?
RC: Learning French, which I still haven’t done.
“Aline Kominsky-Crumb & Robert Crumb–Drawn Together” is at David Zwirner through Feb 18.