7 remarkable surveys of outdoor art – ARTnews.com
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Call it what you will – outdoor art, folk art, visionary art, aberrant art – but the artists associated with these overlapping and sometimes conflicting headings have two things in common: they are all visual autodidacts – self-taught, if you prefer. – obliged for one reason or another to create works with often surprising results. They also generally occupy a marginal place in society (sharecroppers, prisoners, developmentally handicapped, self-proclaimed abductees by extraterrestrials, etc.). But this lack of education and marginal status are precisely the reasons why a certain aura has been bestowed on self-taught art as something unmediated by convention, a direct expression of an artistic vision free from cultural constraints. . Too romantic a bromide? Perhaps. But like all clichÃ©s, it has a kernel of truth that trumps whatever label you choose to use for a category of art the many manifestations of which are explored in these books. (Price and availability in effect at the time of publication.)
1. “Sublime spaces and visionary worlds: environments constructed by vernacular artists”
Built environments are arguably the most fantastic expressions of outdoor art as they transform the imagination into a space one can literally enter. In any case, this is the premise of this richly illustrated 2007 coffee table volume edited by Leslie Umberger, which highlights the work of 20 self-taught practitioners. One of the best known of these is Simon Rodia, creator of the mosaic-covered Watts Towers in Los Angeles. The book also includes Loy Allen Bowlin, a Mississippian who sprinkled his possessions – including his dentures (!) – with rhinestones; David Butler, whose hammered pewter assemblages were inspired by dreams; Mary Nohl, who turned her Milwaukee home into a sculpture park for her monumental figures; and Emery Blagdon, a Nebraska farmer who filled a building with a rotating facility with chandelier-like objects he called “healing machines” because of their supposedly restorative properties. The works are simply amazing and convincingly argue that when it comes to outdoor art, three dimensions can be better than two.
Buy: “Sublime spaces and visionary worlds: environments constructed by vernacular artists” from $ 142.46 (New) on Amazon
2. “Photo / Raw”
Photography is generally not associated with outdoor art, a misconception that Photo / Raw, which accompanied the revolutionary exhibition of the same name, attempts to correct. Like the exhibition, taken from the collection of Bruno Decharme, the book features 40 self-taught artists pursuing unconventional approaches to the photographic medium, creating images transmitted from the edge. Photo-collage, photomontage and cut-out are some of the techniques that distinguish the work here, as is an obsessive sensibility evidenced, for example, by Miroslav Tichy’s stealthy shots of women taken with a camera and a hand-made telephoto lens; photographic self-portraits of Lee Godie, an often homeless Chicago woman; Morton Bartlett’s photos of eerily realistic girl dolls he made himself; and Ichiwo Sugino’s Instagram selfies in which he transforms into Andy Warhol, Che Guevara and other famous names by twisting his face with duct tape. Taken as a whole, Photo / Raw reveals a form of photography as raw as it is indomitable.
Buy: “Photo / Raw” $ 45.27 (new) on Amazon
3. “Foreign art: visionary worlds and traumas”
Art historians generally ignore the idea that biographical or psychological factors shape the work of artists. Questions such as “Was Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa really an expression of homosexual tendencies through her resemblance to dating?” are immediately dismissed as unfounded, with comments indicating that in any case La Gioconda is a masterpiece no matter what. In contrast, considerations about an exterior work of art usually begin with the trauma that struck its creator, a reductive take that ultimately assumes that in the absence of some sort of emotional or psychic damage, there would be no neither Henry Darger nor MartÃn RamÃrez. This may be the case, but Daniel Wojcik tackles the problem by allowing that, although foreign artists have been institutionalized, ostracized or otherwise marginalized, their work has just as much emerged from the larger cultures of which they are. venus (for example, the Mexican heritage of RamÃrez), and that these influences should be taken into account when evaluating their work. This may be obvious at first glance, but more and more relevant at a time when foreign artists are increasingly recognized.
Buy: “Outdoor art: visionary worlds and traumas” $ 45.00 (new) on Amazon
4. “Body: Art Brut / The Collection”
Would foreign art have become as well known as it was without Jean Dubuffet (1901â1985)? It’s hard to know, but there is no doubt that the post-war French painter and sculptor started the ball rolling by defending artists “far removed from traditional artistic circles”. Art Brut is the name Dubuffet gave it, and its interest stems from what he sees as the avant-garde’s descent into academic conformity. For Dubuffet, Art Brut represented a break with all this, even if he had not noticed the irony of founding a museum – the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland – devoted to the genre. This volume is the third in a series examining its holdings (built around Dubuffet’s personal cache of objects) by subject, in this case the human figure. Examples range from the voluptuous females of AloÃ¯se Corbaz to the cosmic deconstructions of Guo Fengyi. Like the other books in the series, Body is an excellent entry into the sui generis nature of outdoor art.
Buy: “Body: Art Brut / The Collection” $ 22.00 (new) on Amazon
5. “Groundwater: a century of art by self-taught and foreign artists”
Looking for a book on self-taught artists that is both a deeply source reference text and a stylish addition to your coffee table? Look no further than Underground waters, which offers a comprehensive Outsider Art 101-like study of the transformation of the genre from a minor curiosity to a serious field of study during the 20th century. Author Charles Russell admits that no label can adequately contain the broad spectrum of expression found in the work of self-taught artists, although he insists that naive – a term that belies the sophistication of their respective practices – is not one of them. Russell notes how the appreciation of foreign artists has evolved differently in Europe and the United States, the former focusing on the art of institutionalized individuals and the latter drawing on 19th-century folk traditions. Color plates accompany the author’s writing, making Underground waters a feast for the eyes as well as for the mind.
Buy: “Groundwater: a century of art by self-taught and foreign artists“$ 89.89 (new) on Amazon
6. “Setting the clock: art in the era of mass incarceration”
Institutions have long been a breeding ground for self-taught artists, and indeed Art Brut was coined to signify the work of individuals like Adolf WÃ¶lfli, who had been confined to a mental asylum for assaulting children. Conventional prisons also encouraged self-taught artists, but today, with mass incarceration disproportionately affecting people of color, their work has become linked to the history of racism. According to author Nicole R. Fleetwood, these artist-inmates are forced to operate under a “prison aesthetic” defined by the constraint of administrative censorship, limited art supplies and hampered artistic rehabilitation programs resulting from racialized budget cuts. As Fleetwood notes, the art created by inmates was once encouraged by the authorities as a kind of therapy (as was the case with WÃ¶lfli), but the racial dynamics of mass incarceration have detached the practice from its restorative function, recasting it as an act of resistance against institutionalized injustice.
Buy: “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” $ 27.95 (new) on Amazon
7. âSouls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Artâ, Volumes 1 and 2
This two-volume set offers an authoritative look at the development of African-American vernacular art in the Deep South during the 20th century. It begins by putting the region’s self-taught, folk, foreign and visionary artists on par with black musicians who have profoundly reshaped American culture through blues, jazz, gospel, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. Like this music, African American art ultimately dates back to the traditional skills of Africa that survived the Middle Passage, including weaving, woodcarving, and metalworking – practical handcrafted items that were eventually joined. through mediums of pure expression such as painting, sculpture, works on paper. and outdoor environments. As a result, an entirely new category of American art emerged and, in due course, it caught the attention of collectors, gallery owners, and institutions like the Museum of Modern Art – sparking a market that in many case, merged with that of contemporary art. Deeper souls tells the story in detail, revisiting a remarkable chapter in both the art and history of the United States.
Purchase: “Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art”, Volume 1 $ 69.38 (new) on Amazon and 2nd volume $ 81.12 (new) on Amazon