A fitting portrait of Spain drawn by Justin Green.
The wonderful cartoonist, artist, and story teller, Spain Rodriguez, passed away Wednesday morning of complications of cancer. He passed at the same time the prenumbral eclipse was happening, and like the earth’s shadow on the edges of the moon, his shadow was at the edges of the art world for over five decades.
Although he first gained notoriety as a part of the 60′s underground comix scene, Spain defied singular categorization. He was widely regarded as equal parts 50′s greaser shit-kicker, family man, revolutionary, and phenomenal artist.
In Spain’s youth he joined a storied motorcycle club called the Road Vultures in Buffalo. That club became a Hell’s Angels chapter. He drew many stories about times with that club, most which seemed almost absurd, but they were true to every detail.
Spain’s first major art exhibit is currently on display at the Burchfield Penney Museum in Buffalo New York through January 20th, 2013. This selection of work highlights the best of Spain’s 43-year career as a graphic artist, underground comix pioneer, illustrator, graphic novelist, and biographer. Last Gasp published the catalog: Spain: Rock Roll Rumbles Rebels & Revolution to accompany the exhibit.
Spain’s wife, filmmaker Susan Stern, has recently finished a 15-minute documentary about Spain called Trashman: The Art of Spain Rodriguez. It’s an excellent story of art, sex, violence, greasers, class war, and other things that make life worthwhile and part of what makes Spain’s art so great.
In the days since his passing, remembrances have poured in from all corners of the internet. The Comics Journal has posted an obituary by Patrick Rosenkranz, an in-depth 1998 interview by Gary Groth, and many other tributes. Other farewells to Spain can be found in the New York Times, SF Chronicle, the National Enquirer, Vice Magazine, Buffalo News, The Beat, Comics Reporter, Washington Post, Salon, Justin Green’s blog, The Daily Heller, Art Forum, among other places. A fantastic collection of Spain images, as well as an interview from a studio visit last year, can be found on Sean Stewart’s tumblr, Babylon’s Falling.
Baba Ron Turner has this to say about his departed friend:
“I looked over Spain’s drawing table. He passed so quickly, he left what appeared to be a great story of a puppet master arguing in front of a judge with a hand up Moses’ robe, half drawn, with the details being worked out as he did so cleverly, drawing you in to the vast world that was his minds eye. Next to them were small, small paint brushes and lead soldiers that he was painting with perfect detail. He would correct the colors and the kind of cut on the jackets or the stripes on the pants to conform to the reality of history for dozens of ancient armies he had in his collection. He was a wonderful father to Nora and husband to wife Susan. He never backed down from convictions and always weighed his responses to questions. I will miss not seeing his next sketch, comix or poster and especially all the stories of Buffalo,and snooping out the flea markets and toy shows and comic conventions. Our daughters were born eight days apart and bound our families together as the girls became lifelong best friends. A friend saw Spain giggling as he drew a sexy girl on our warehouse pillar at last years burritos, beer and cheer party. That ink has faded. I think Spain’s legacy shall never fade.”
Spain changed and challenged the art and social world as we know it. He will be dearly missed.
Four decades • 300+ comix • 250+ books • A Who’s Who of Lowbrow Art
Last Gasp turns 40 this year and to celebrate, we are throwing a party and art show at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco.
The Last Gasp 40th Anniversary Art Show assembles a top-drawer lineup of artists – the haut monde of lowbrow. Over the past four decades, Last Gasp has published hundreds of artists in the underground comix, kustom kulture, pop surrealism and street art movements.
Artists in the show include:
Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Glenn Barr, Mark and Vaughn Bode, Robert Crumb, Richard Corben, Rob and Christian Clayton, Guy Colwell, Ron English, Tony Fitzpatrick, Christopher Felver, Camille Rose Garcia, Justin Green, Charles Gatewood, Bill Griffith, Rick Griffin, Ed Hardy, Jay Kinney, Frank Kozik, Joe Ledbetter, Carol Lay, Adrian Lee, Michael Manning, Chris Mars, Mats, Paul Mavrides, Scott Musgrove, Albert Morse, Junko Mizuno, Liz McGrath, Laurenn McCubbin, Mitch O’Connell, Annie Owens, The Pizz, Mark Ryden, Michael Rosen, Trina Robbins, Spain Rodriguez, Dori Seda, Winston Smith, Stanislav Szukalski, Larry Todd, Eric White, Robert Williams, Basil Wolverton, Attaboy, Aye Jay, and many more to be announced.
Writers, including San Francisco Poet Laureate Diane DiPrima will do a reading.
Design radicals GAMA-GO will produce a limited edition tee shirt for the event.
21 + over; Free and open to the public
When: April 1, 2010, 6pm until late
Where: 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 974-1719 www.111minnagallery.com Contact: Jay Howell
About Last Gasp
Last Gasp is one of the largest and oldest publishers and purveyors of underground books & comics in the world, as well as being a distributor of all sorts of weird ‘n’ wonderful subversive literature, graphic novels, tattoo and art books.
Last Gasp was founded in 1970 by Ron Turner. Last Gasp’s first publication, Slow Death Funnies #1 came out on the first “Earth Day,” April 15, 1970. Subsequent comics included the all-women’s comic It Ain’t Me Babe, and Skull Comics. Over the years they have published, and in some cases brought to light, some of the most respected and talented artists working today, including such luminaries as R. Crumb, Mark Ryden, Justin Green, Bill Griffith, Frank Kozik, Todd Schorr, Winston Smith, Spain Rodriguez, and Robert Williams to name but a few.
Ron Turner’s enthusiasm for underground comics, and in particular their autobiographical aspect, has been the driving force behind many groundbreaking publications. Last Gasp published Justin Green’s highly acclaimed confessional Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary in 1972, a book that became an inspiration to many artists now working in the autobiographical style. “Art Spiegelman, who won the only Pulitzer Prize for cartooning, has said he would never have started to do the autobiographical story of his family (in the graphic novel Maus) unless Justin had done it first. And Robert Crumb said the same thing,” said Turner.
Today, Last Gasp publishes 12-20 new titles per year, focusing on Lowbrow and Pop Surrealist artists, as well as graphic novels. The company has 18 full and part-time employees and is based in San Francisco. In addition to publishing, Last Gasp distributes for large and small publishers worldwide, providing a steady countercultural stream of books and other printed matter that spreads over six continents.
Last Gasp books have been glowingly reviewed in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Juxtapoz magazine, The Guardian (UK), Hi-Fructose magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Austin Chronicle, American Book Review, and The Los Angeles Times.
Co-publishing partners include La Luz de Jesus / Billy Shire Fine Arts, Porterhouse Fine Art Editions, San Jose Museum of Art, Grand Central Art Center, Smokemuse, JaPress, Moulinsart, Presspop Gallery, Ignition Publishing, NewSkool/Analog, Laguna Art Museum, and many more.
The readers of the San Francisco Bay Guardian named Last Gasp the Best Local Publisher in 2009.
First publications: Slow Death, 1970 (comic); Breather’s Guide to Invisible Air Polution (book) 1970
Spain Rodriguez is one of the original Zap cartoonists and a fascinating figure with a lot of great stories. He’s having an art show and will be speaking at the Cartoon Art Museum this Thursday, Sept 17.
Here’s the invite:
The Cartoon Art Museum proudly presents Spain Rodriguez: Rebel in Ink, a retrospective exhibition celebrating the art of seminal underground comix creator and San Francisco legend Spain Rodriguez.
Rebel in Ink looks back on Rodriguez’s 40-plus years as a comic book artist, providing the most comprehensive gallery exhibition of his work to date. In the late 1960s, Rodriguez was one of the pioneers of the underground comix movement, through work on such groundbreaking publications as The East Village Other, Zap Comix, and the first underground tabloid, Zodiac Mindwarp, which was created by Rodriguez. Trashman, one of Rodriguez’s best known creations, was an icon in underground newspapers of the 1960s and 1970s. Rodriguez was an early pioneer of online comics as well, and he collaborated with the late comics historian and writer Bob Callahan in the 1990s on The Dark Hotel, which was featured on the popular website Salon.com. Rodriguez has also been active as an educator at various Bay Area colleges and schools. Among his more recent works are numerous illustrations for the mainstream press, several anthology comics collections, and the critically acclaimed Che: A Graphic Biography, a 2008 graphic novel depicting the life and times of Che Guevara.
The opening reception for this exhibition will take place on Thursday, September 17, 2009 from 7:00-9:00pm. Spain Rodriguez will look back at his long and storied career in a discussion moderated by Cartoon Art Museum founder Malcolm Whyte. This event is free and open to the public.
Cartoon Art Museum
655 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
There are few members of the 1960s underground comics wave whose names inspire more awe and respect than that of Spain Rodriguez. He, along with Robert Crumb, was one of the original members of Zap Comics and has a reputation as a political artist who pushes the boundaries of creativity. He is the author of several graphic novels, including CHE: A Graphic Biography.