Carlo Zinelli, untitled 1968 guache on paper at Galerie Christian Berst www.christianberst.com
The Galerie Christian Berst, who exhibited with us in New York at the 2011 Outsider Art Fair this past February, first opened its doors in 2005. Since then, as Paris’s only specialist Art Brut gallery, it has worked tirelessly to promote creators of exceptional talent, exhibiting the “classic” names of Art Brut already featured in museums and collections and discovering the stars of the future.
The gallery, a short walk from the Pompidou Centre, holds regular exhibitions and is present at major international art fairs. It offers a wide range of publications as well as hosting numerous conferences, screenings, and other cultural events with the aim of initiating an ever wider audience into the mysteries of Art Brut.
Dino Buzzati and Alberto Moravia took up their pens in the late 1950s to draw the world’s attention to the great creative spirit that had just come to light at the San Giacomo asylum in Verona. Carlo Zinelli was just beginning to use paper for his paintings, featuring the motifs that he had once roughly gouged into the asylum walls using stones and bits of brick. Carlo Zinelli (1916-1974) started out as a farmhand and later found work in abattoirs. Though always a solitary man, he was known as something of a dandy and enjoyed drawing and music. The war years, which he spent in a battalion of Alpine hunters, exacerbated his schizophrenia. His art – a kind of autobiographical narrative, blending together events from before his internment – represents a real revolution in formal terms, characterised by iteration, dislocation, multiplication, atrophy, stylisation, lack of perspective, variations in viewpoint and scale, writing in the gaps that throbs like a pulse, and colour that lends his silhouettes a palpable density. All these elements give his compositions an intense rhythm of frenzied modernity. Those who knew him said that there was no intentionality behind his art, or indeed awareness that it was art. However, by the time he died in 1974, he was estimated to have produced some three thousand works, most of them double-sided, though only a third of this number has been located to date. Jean Dubuffet and André Breton understood the futility of trying to decipher the meaning of Carlo Zinelli’s art, while admiring its beauty which, as Breton wrote, “ if it exists at all, does so convulsively”. http://www.christianberst.com