Tag Archives: outsider art
Opening the Folkways of Perception:
Outsider Art’s Wide World of Inclusion
By MARTHA SCHWENDENER
I once asked an art dealer how he determined whether someone was an outsider artist, and he offered this criterion: anyone who called up and said he or she was an outsider artist was immediately disqualified. In his view, outsider artists don’t self-identify and they don’t operate telephones.
Standing inside the 19th annual Outsider Art Fair at 7 West 34th Street in Manhattan on Thursday evening, Colin Rhodes, an Australian art historian who’s written a book on the subject, disagreed. “Pathology is not the defining criterion,” he said. For him, an outsider artist is not an amateur, just someone working outside the regular art world structures.
In any case, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled and the self-taught generally rule the field — the dearth of art by prisoners at these fairs is a continual surprise; they’re an extremely creative, productive and expanding population — and their stories haunt wall labels throughout the 33 exhibitors’ booths. But this is a strong fair whose work begs to be considered along other lines.
There are, for instance, pieces characterized by striking or unusual materials, like Jim Work’s drawings of farms and rural roads done in crayon on opened-up paper grocery bags, at the Pardee Collection; or George Paterson’s carved skateboards, which look like tribal objects, at Cavin-Morris. David Butler’s cut-and-pounded-tin birds and creatures, on view at Gilley’s Gallery and Ricco/Maresca, were made to decorate his yard in New Orleans or hang in his windows, casting distinctive shadows into the interior of his home.
Outsider art also accommodates the late bloomer. Aaron Birnbaum, a retired New York tailor, started painting at 65. His lovely “Two Peacocks in Tree” from 1985 at Maxwell Projects is framed by painted pieces of a wooden crib found in the street. Giorgos Rigas began painting scenes of the Greek countryside from memory at 56. His Grandma Moses-like canvases are hung salon-style at C. Grimaldis.
Religious visionaries are a perennial presence. Nikifor at Wasserwerk Galerie Lange created small, beautifully colored images, including a self-portrait as a Greek Orthodox bishop. The legendary Howard Finster offers an urgent pronouncement at Ames Gallery — “Warning! Take Heed or Fail!” — from 1984.
And pathology can’t always be ruled out. Some of the best works in the show were made by artists afflicted with something — although institutional records often prohibit us from knowing what. William Rice Rode, a patient in an Illinois mental hospital around the turn of the last century, made extraordinary drawings of flying machines, people and text written in a self-invented language, on bed sheets; examples are on view at the Carl Hammer Gallery.
At Ricco/Maresca, George Widener’s large ink-on-paper drawing “Untitled (4421)” from 2010 doubles as a “robot teaching game” for future generations of intelligent machines. The systematic structure, numbering and pattern are credited by his dealer largely to Mr. Widener’s being an autistic savant.
Some of the most widely admired work here is by the Electric Pencil, an anonymous patient at State Lunatic Asylum No. 3 in Nevada, Mo., whose drawings from the early 20th century were discovered in a trash can in 1970. Assembled and displayed by the New York artist Harris Diamant — who also provided the “electric” moniker — the Pencil’s drawings of animals and specter-eyed figures often appear on hospital stationery.
Established masters hang alongside newer discoveries. The old guard includes Bill Traylor, Martin Ramirez, Henry Darger, Mr. Butler, Sam Doyle, Mr. Finster, James Castle and Adolf Wolfli. Mr. Rode and the Electric Pencil are among the new.
And then there is the catchall category of general weirdness: illustrations made to accompany Dr. Carrie F. Young’s 1875 lectures on the effects of alcohol on the human stomach at Ames; Haitian voodoo objects at Bourbon-Lally, made to please spirits or protect households; the virtuoso ink drawings of Leonard L. St. Clair (a k a Stoney), a dwarf tattoo artist who lived in Columbus, Ohio, at Maxwell Projects.
Written next to the images in Mr. St. Clair’s drawings — which were made as tattoo samples — are numbers designating prices for the real things. He might be surprised to learn, 31 years after his death, that the drawings themselves have acquired financial value as art objects.
Perhaps more than any other factor, this is what binds together the work in the Outsider Art Fair: Much of it wasn’t created to sell, or to achieve, acclaim, but for other purposes — often merely to satisfy a raw creative impulse. For those of us caught up in the art world, it offers a corrective, or at least a temporary window into another world.
The Outsider Art Fair continues through Sunday at 7 West 34th Street, Manhattan;
Good Morning ART LOVERS!
Today is the move-in / set-up day for the 19th Annual OUTSIDER ART FAIR!
Please take a moment and browse our dealers list!
|American Primitive Gallery
For Immediate Release:
The Outsider Art Fair Brings Together International Dealers and a Weekend of Exciting Events
February 11 – 13 • 7 W 34th Street, NYC • Preview February 10
Don’t miss the Outsider Art Fair next weekend, February 11th-13th at 7 W 34th Street. The original and unsurpassed exhibition and sale for self-taught, intuitive, visionary, and primitive art, is now in its 19th year. Thirty-three international dealers bring their finest selections of intense, stunning, enigmatic artwork created by artists in all walks of life, but outside of mainstream society. Friday, 11am – 8pm; Saturday, 11am – 8pm; and Sunday, 11am – 6pm. Visit http://www.sanfordsmith.com. Tickets $20 or $35 for a two-day pass.
• Thursday, February 10, 6:30 – 9:00pm •
A benefit preview offers an opportunity to view the fair an make purchases before the show opens to the public. Ticket sales benefit Creative Growth Art Center, the world’s oldest and largest art center for people with developmental disabilities, and Fountain Gallery, New York’s leading venue for artists with mental illness. Early admission and VIP lounge open at 5:30. For more information, please contact Robyn Marks at Fountain House at 212.582.0341, ext. 1288 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• Friday, February 11, 8:00 – 11:00pm •
A Friday Evening After Party hosted by a committee comprised of several of the fair’s exhibitors offers a chance to stay past the fair’s closing and enjoy beer, wine, food and a DJ. Tickets $50.
• Saturday, February 12, 1:30pm •
Dr. Thomas Röske gives a special talk about the Prinzhorn Collection. Before the second World War, and before Jean Dubuffet took up the interest of “art brut,” Dr. Hans Prinzhorn was already taking special interest in the artwork being created by the patients in his psychiatric hospital in Heidlberg Germany. The resulting Prinzhorn collection remains largely together and is housed at theUniversity of Heidelberg. Dr. Röske, the current Director, has worked to create accessibility to the works, and to have the collection be seen as relevant in a contemporary art context. Tickets $25.
• Sunday, February 13, 2:00pm •
A panel discussion of the role of artist with disabilities in outsider and contemporary art. Tickets $25.
Tickets for these special events can be purchased on-line at http://www.fountainhouse.org/events or at the entrance to the Outsider Art Fair.
We present to you artist JIM WORK:
Born in 1944, Jim Work is an artist with a developmental disability whose large-scale drawings celebrate the American highway system and vernacular architecture of the rural Midwest. Like the grid system of the surrounding rural landscape, Work’s drawings are very linear and orderly. In contrast to the chaotic, fast-paced nature of urban sprawl, his highways and surrounding landscapes are barren of automobiles or people. He imposes the starkness and isolation of his own surrounding landscape and small-town life on urban landscapes. From Work’s simple reality of small-town rural life, he imagines the excitement and complexity of the American highway system that leads to faraway, unknown places.
We have just received some awesome press shots of our first year dealer THE ELECTRIC PENCIL from Nevada, Missouri.
“Around the year 1910, a patient at State Lunatic Asylum No. 3 … who referred to himself as THE ELECTRIC PENCIL, executed 283 drawings in ink, pencil, crayon and colored pencil. The drawings were done on both sides of 140 ledger pages, each bearing the name of the hospital.”
pass on the word!