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Spain Rodriguez (1940-2012), from Comic Journal, cover, 1998; graphite, pen, and ink on paper, 14 ¾ x 14 ¼ inches; Courtesy of the Artist

Spain Rodriguez (1940-2012), from Comic Journal, cover, 1998; graphite, pen, and ink on paper, 14 ¾ x 14 ¼ inches; Courtesy of the Artist

Manuel "Spain" Rodriguez (1940-2012)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Spain could make ink ripple and resonate. His style could be bold and blunt and grunting — as in-your-face as an urban hustler — but it somehow always remained seductive. He drew road warriors and revolutionaries. At times — to strangers and eventual friends alike — he could resemble both himself."
–Michael Cavna, The Washington Post

"Hard-charging biker. Class warfare revolutionary. Pioneering underground cartoonist. Loving family man. That was Spain Rodriguez. From his role as one of the original Zap Comix artists with Robert Crumb, to his work as a founder of the Mission District murals movement in San Francisco, Rodriguez influenced generations of cartoonists and illustrators with a gritty, in-your-face approach to urban life."
–Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle

"He was a wonderful father, husband, and friend. His art challenged, changed and enlightened and entertained us for over five decades."
-Ron Turner, founder of Last Gasp

“…Spain, in his long career, exemplified what seemed like only a dream for so many cartoonists prior to his generation: a long career of strong works accompanied by a measure of critical respect that ebbed and flowed but never died out.”
-The Beat


Rest in Peace Spain.

The world lost a great American Artist today. After a long fight with cancer, Manuel “Spain” Rodriguez passed away this morning with his wife and daughter at his side. We at the Burchfield Penney are saddened by the loss and feel fortunate to have known Spain and his family while curating and presenting his retrospective exhibition at the Center this fall. In his honor, the exhibition will remain on our walls through January 20, 2013.

A brilliant artist and storyteller - and a giant in the art of underground comics - Spain exemplified the spirit of the Underground by challenging politics, sexuality and government. His work grew into the comic book medium out of publications such as the East Village Other, where he began his career.

The Buffalo-born comic book artist was a prominent figure and leader of the first generation of underground comic artists. His work traversed the nation from New York City to San Francisco. For some forty-five years, this outspoken leftist thinking giant of the Underground conveyed telling, satirical stories, both fictional and non-fictional, of political and historic importance. His work is unmistakable. It is singular. Unique. Uncompromising. He will surely be missed, but his legacy will live on.

Don Metz
Associate Director
Co-curator, Spain: Rock, Roll, Rumbles, Rebels and Revolution


In Spain’s legacy, we learned to tell the truth, take risks, stake a claim, make a stand, break the rules, change the game and to do it well.

These are the noble goals of art and learning, good works that usually occur after provocation from artists like Spain Rodriguez.

The artists of the comix generation, like Spain, used modest means for strong goals, a common paper with a declarative image, plain language and direct thinking. They saw value in turning things upside down.

Spain put one picture after another, left foot, right foot, telling a personal story, often from Buffalo, about violence bred out of poverty and its force-field that pushes civics to the margins. He told his stories and made his art with evident, sometimes tough, language that had none of the vanity of high art. His stories valued making sense, and didn’t hide his point of view, nor his solutions, nor his heart.

Museums, as places for free speech and tough ideas, find themselves-finally-consistent with the legacy of Spain and his colleagues. The art of our time is now filled with the challenge (and the promise) of Spain’s work.

For Spain, making art was not as important as making meanings.

Spain worked up through his last day. As we go forward, we will miss him – and his work a lot. For this moment, though, it is on the walls of the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Come and pay tribute.

Anthony Bannon, Ph.D.
Executive Director