2012 will mark the 20th Anniversary of the Outsider Art Fair. According to press release below, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been adding Self-Taught Art to its collection since 1993, the same year as the first annual Outsider Art Fair. Works by the artists in the Bonovitz collection, which the Philadelphia Museum will celebrate with an exhibition and catalogue in spring of 2013, and including those mentioned in this press release such as Bill Traylor, William Edmondson, Martín Ramírez, William Hawkins, James Castle, and many more, are available for sale at the Outsider Art Fair by highly established dealers in a beautiful, accessible, energy-charged environment, at the 7W building; 7 W. 34th St. (at 5th Ave) NY, NY.
Promised gift from Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz makes the Museum a
destination for outsider art
Approximately 190 works by self-taught artists have become promised gifts to the Philadelphia Museum of Art from Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, who have assembled over the past three decades one of the finest collections of outsider art in private hands in the United States. Their donation, which the Museum will celebrate with an exhibition and catalogue in spring of 2013, will increase the Museum’s holdings of outsider art by more than sixty percent. Sheldon Bonovitz is a member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees.
“Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz have been pathfinders in this field,” said Timothy Rub, the Museum’s George D. Widener Director and CEO. “Their dedication to the work of self-taught artists and the exceptional vision they have brought to the development of their collection will now benefit the public and enable others to understand and appreciate this important, but little known aspect of modern and contemporary art.”
The exhibition planned for 2013 will focus on American artists active between the 1930s and 1980s, many of whom are African American, and will feature works by such iconic figures as William Edmondson, Bill Traylor, and Martín Ramírez, as well as by somewhat lesser-known but widely respected artists such as James Castle, Howard Finster, William Hawkins, and Elijah Pierce.
“Self-taught artists use a wide range of inventive working methods and often employ unconventional materials, including house paint, wood scraps, roofing tin, and shirt cardboard,” said Ann Percy, Curator of Drawings. “The individuality that characterizes the work and the artists’ methods of conceiving images independently of familiar styles, trends, or movements will appeal to a diverse audience interested in exploring new terrain in the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.”
Among the highlights of the Bonovitz collection are six works by William Edmondson (1874-1951), including the stone sculpture Horse. A retired janitor from Nashville, Tennessee, Edmondson took up carving tombstones and outdoor stone ornaments in his mid to late fifties, sometime in the early 1930s. Over the next decade and a half he filled his back yard with small figures of birds, animals, and people, which he sculpted from found chunks of limestone using an old railroad spike for a chisel. Masterful in their simplification of form, pared down to the barest essentials, minimally articulated as to surface and texture, and almost geometric in their near abstraction, these works are today considered among the finest achievements of self-taught art in the United States.
Mexican-born Martín Ramírez (1895-1963), who ranks among the most respected self-taught artists in North America, is represented by seven spectacular works in the Bonovitz collection. Working with found materials from the confines of DeWitt State Hospital, Auburn, California – diagnosed with schizophrenia, Ramírez spent the greater part of his adult life in mental institutions – he reportedly employed ad hoc substances like spit, bread, and perhaps even mashed potatoes to bind together bits and pieces of used paper into large drawing surfaces. On these irregular sheets he laid down thick, expressive crayon and graphite lines to create remarkably conceived, semi-abstracted images of trains, tunnels, Madonnas, horsemen, animals, and landscapes, often adding collaged elements from popular books or magazines. Combined with the works by Ramírez already owned by the museum, the Bonovitz gift will place Philadelphia’s holdings of this important artist among the finest in public institutions in the country.
Known for his vibrantly colored, dramatically stylized paintings, William Hawkins (1895-1990) turned to art seriously at around age 85, after a life spent working – mostly in Columbus, Ohio – at jobs such as farming, truck-driving, demolition, and steel casting. The Bonovitz collection includes six major works by this artist, who employed brightly colored semi-gloss enamel paints, often poured directly onto large pieces of plywood or Masonite and energetically mixed, swirled, and scumbled with a stubby old paintbrush. His images, dramatic in effect and whimsical in composition, were derived from newspapers, magazines, photographs, and advertisements, and he often incorporated found materials into his works.In Boffo, the animal’s head and shoulders are built up with a heavy application of a bituminous substance such as tar or asphalt.