What is Outsider Art?
Although the roots of Outsider Art can be traced back thousands of years, it is most useful to look back to its most recent precursor, art brut (Raw Art) to hear the most vital articulations of its true spirit. In his 1947 manifesto, French artist and curator Jean Dubuffet coined the term art brut as follows: "We understand by this term works produced by persons unscathed by artistic culture, where mimicry plays little or no part (contrary to the activities of intellectuals). These artists derive everything...from their own depths, and not from the conventions of classical or fashionable art."
In his 1972 book championing art brut, Roger Cardinal called it Outsider Art: "I believe that a paramount factor in the critical definition of the creative Outsider is that he or she should be possessed of an expressive impulse and should then externalize that impulse in an unmonitored way which defies conventional art-historical contextualization."
Dubuffet and Cardinal were writing primarily about extremely marginalized European artists: psychotics, mediums, and eccentrics. This has caused the common misconception that Outsider Art is essentially pathological, when in fact the central characteristic shared by Outsiders is simply their lack of conditioning by art history or art world trends.
Over the years, the parameters of Outsider Art have expanded dramatically to include art made by a wide variety of art-makers who share this common denominator of raw creativity. Outsiders come from all walks of life, from all cultures, from all age groups.
In recent years, Outsider Artists may have even come to outnumber Insider Artists who have achieved critical validation within the elite art world, and yet who speak with increasingly less clarity and relevance to us about the human experience. Dubuffet's description of officially recognized art has never been more relevant: "everyone immediately sprinkles it with champagne, and lecturers lead it from town to town with a ring through its nose. This is the false Monsieur Art."
In 1947, Dubuffet staged a ground-breaking, manifesto-driven exhibition in Paris, aptly naming his category art brut (Raw Art). Dubuffet's Collection de l'Art Brut grew in the subsequent decades, and eventually found a home in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1976. This unique collection might well have remained in isolation, if not for the publication of a 1972 study of art brut entitled Outsider Art written by the British scholar Roger Cardinal. Cardinal's book, and his 1979 London exhibition Outsiders, launched Outsider Art as a powerful global force that continues to challenge and redefine the limits of what we call art.?
The genesis of Outsider Art could well be traced to an imagined prehistoric cave wall, to the work of your favorite eccentric visionary (think William Blake), or to the mythic artist-genius dreamed up by Romantic philosophers and poets. Outsider Artists began to emerge as a force to be reckoned with during the early 1920's, with the publication of two pioneering studies of art made on asylum inmates, conducted by European psychiatrists in search of universal truths about human creativity.
German Expressionists soon fell in love with the schizophrenic artists presented in these books--especially Adolf Wölfli, Karl Brendel and August Naterrer--and adopted them as creative muses by appropriating their imagery. In Paris, the Surrealists looked to the same books for inspiration, and also to Spiritualist Mediums such as Augustin Lesage and Helene Smith who were famous local practitioners of automatic drawing.
It wasn't until after World War II that Outsider Art was truly recognized as more than simply source material for the modernist avant-garde. The French artist Jean Dubuffet took the Surrealist obsession with Outsiders to a new level by daring to collect and exhibit their work. Not only did he champion the artwork of schizophrenics and local mediums, but he also celebrated art made by eccentric isolates and self-taught laborers. Dubuffet recognized in the work of these divergent groups one unifying trait: a raw quality untouched by academic rules or current trends.
May 8 - May 11, 2014
For twenty-one years, the Outsider Art Fair has been the world's foremost annual show of Outsider, Self-Taught, and Folk Art. And for twenty-one years, the Outsider Art Fair took place in winter. In 2014, for the first time, the Fair will take place in the spring, from May 8 - 11 at Chelsea's Center 548, the former home of the Dia Art Foundation, located at 548 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011. These dates coincide with the New York edition of Britain's Frieze Art Fair.
"For anyone who has been paying attention to what's going on in the art world, the Outsider Art Fair is a must-see event," says Andrew Edlin, CEO of Wide Open Arts.
Wide Open Arts is pleased to announce its exhibitors for the 2014 Outsider Art Fair. OAF has always showcased work by artists who have been obscure, neglected, or invisible. Eleven galleries who've been with the Fair since the beginning will return, offering a mix of the newly discovered with works by legendary outsiders. For the first time since 1999, Philadelphia's seminal Fleisher/Ollman Gallery will be present. Other dealers from the original lineup include Ames, American Primitive, Bonheur, Henry Boxer, Carl Hammer, Cavin-Morris, Gilley's, Marion Harris, Ricco/Maresca, and Luise Ross.
With a total of 47 exhibitors from around the world, this year's Fair features artists from countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (where Rigobert Nimi makes intricate, science-fiction-inspired sculptures from recycled industrial materials, exhibited by Galerie Degbomey in Paris), New Zealand (where Susan Te Kahurangi King's striking Donald Duck drawings from the late 1950's will be shown by Chris Byrne and Marquand Books), and Brazil (where Alcides Pereira dos Santos made his biblically-inspired, boldly geometric paintings of nature and technology, exhibited by Sao Paulo's Galeria Estação).
Yukiko Koide returns with her dynamic artists from Japanese workshops, and for the first time Megumi Ogita Gallery, also from Tokyo, will be displaying the calligraphic drawings of Shoko Kanazawa. And Paris' Hervé Perdriolle, who played a pivotal role in curating the Cartier Foundation's groundbreaking Histoires de Voir exhibition in 2012, also makes his New York debut with a booth comprised solely of self-taught artists from India.
The 2014 Outsider Art Fair also welcomes new exhibitors like Marlborough Chelsea (soloing the embroidered cut-and-paste works by skateboarder Tony Cox), Hirschl & Adler (with drawings by Edward Deeds, a longtime Missouri state mental hospital patient whose work was rescued from a roadside trash heap) and Zieher Smith (featuring vernacular photographs from their recent acclaimed Photo Brut exhibition).
The Outsider Art Fair opens Thursday, May 8. God's Love We Deliver, the NYC metropolitan area's leading provider of life-sustaining meals and nutrition counseling for people living with severe illness, will be the evening's beneficiary. Admission for early access, from 3:00-6:00 p.m., is $100. The general vernissage is from 6:00-9:00 p.m., with an admission price of $50. Daily tickets for the remainder of the show will be $20 and a pass for the full run $50. Hours are Friday, May 9th and Saturday, May 10th from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Sunday May 11th from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
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