MCLA Gallery 51 ‘Goes Underground’

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will kick off “When Comics Went Underground,” an exhibition of original art from “underground comix,” a distinctive phenomenon of the late 1960s and ’70s counter-culture, next Thursday, Oct. 28. A total of 50 pieces will be on exhibit through Nov. 28.

Three of the artists who live in Western Massachusetts – Howard Cruse (Gay Comix, Wendel), Gary Hallgren (Air Pirates, National Lampoon) and Denis Kitchen (Kitchen Sink Press) – will be featured on a discussion panel on Oct. 28, from 5 to 6 p.m., along with artist and MCLA Professor of Art Gregory Scheckler.

The discussion will be moderated by writer John Seven. An opening reception will immediately follow, from 6 to 8 p.m. These events are free and open to the public.

Fueled by widespread anti-Vietnam War sentiments, gender politics, civil rights and free speech issues, along with recreational drug use, hundreds of underground comix sprang up, starting during the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco, then quickly spreading across America, Canada and Western Europe, according to MCLA Gallery Manager Ven Voisey.

Underground cartoonists revolutionalized the larger comics industry, Voisey said. He added that many of them continue to work in the graphic novel format, with some achieving wide acclaim.

“When Comics Went Underground” was co-curated by Cruse and Kitchen. The bulk of the art on display is on loan from Kitchen’s collection, augmented by art loaned by Cruse and Hallgren.

Other artists who will exhibit work include R. Crumb (Mr. Natural, Zap and, recently, Genesis) Art Spiegelman (Maus, Raw), Harvey Pekar (American Splendor), Trina Robbins (Wimmens Comix), Bill Griffith (Zippy), Kate Worley and Reed Waller (Omaha the Cat Dancer), Spain Rodriguez (Trashman, Che) and S. Clay Wilson (Checkered Demon).

Also on display will be drawings by Bob Armstrong, Joel Beck, Tim Boxell, Harry Buckinx, Don Glassford, Justin Green, Casserine Grenier, J. Michael Leonard, Jim Mitchell, Peter Poplaski, Steve Stiles and Skip Williamson.

Cruse’s newest “Wendel” collection is coming shortly from Rizzoli/Universe. Hallgren’s illustrations are a regular feature of the best-selling books by Dr. Mehmet Oz, including “You: The Owner’s Manual.” And his “The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen” recently was published by Dark Horse Books.

“When Comics Went Underground” will run through Nov. 28.

MCLA Gallery 51 is located at 51 Main St.and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 413-664-8718, or go to www.mcla.edu/Gallery51

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