Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Art Brut In America. The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet. American Folk Art Museum.

A critic who knew me well, once wrote about my art in which she said that if she didn’t know how sophisticated and knowledgeable I was about art, I could be taken for an outsider artist. I’m recalling this quote from memory and I think she used the now politically incorrect art term “primitive” instead of the nicer “outsider artist.” At the time I was not pleased, I mean who wants to be called primitive, but I’ve come to take it as a compliment, for I relish the fact of my being an outsider.
This brings me to the superb new exhibition that just opened at the great American Folk Art Museum. The show’s historical trail is long and involved, and I’ll make it short. The many works included were once part of Jean Dubuffet’s private collection of art done by the untrained, the criminal and the insane, and he gave them the name of Art Brut which is still being used today and is indeed the title of the show. The work wound up for a time on display at the estate of the artist Alfonso Ossorsio (who by the way has some of his own art in the show and is long overdue for a major retrospective) but after a time, Dubuffet took it back and gifted it to Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, where it resides today. On view is nearly 200 examples from this remarkable collection and it gave me great pleasure along with some shocks, (at times it was like sticking my finger in an electrical socket) along with the usual sadness that comes over me when viewing this kind of work.
I can’t really come up with any pieces that I didn’t like, each piece for me was intense and obsessive (basic traits of this kind of art making) and outrageously beautiful. I did love A Carlo Zinelli’s work of bold and simple animal like shapes and silhouettes that were surround by graffiti like inscriptions and writings, Heinrich Anton Muller’s bold drawings of large and distorted heads, Aloise Corbaz’s large expressionistic colorful pencil portraits and the great and probably the best known artist in the exhibition Adolf Wolfli’s intricate and intense colored pencil drawings. Colored pencils seem to to a favorite medium for these Bruts, maybe because they were easy to come by and inexpensive. I also flipped for Juliette Elisa Bataille’s small and almost too beautiful (can anything ever be too beautiful?) wool embroideries that are placed in vitrines along with some anonymous children’s drawings that also are breathtaking. There are also some brilliant sculptures, the best being the large carved busts and heads made from volcanic rocks by Barbus Muller who for years remained “anonymous”. Notebooks and journals are also plenty here and is also a common approach to art making by the Bruts, probably because of the small scale and the secretive aspects of this mode of expression. There is much more to cherish and wow over, and I’ll leave that up to each visitor to find their own favorite Bruts. The exhibition is on only until Jan. 10th.


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