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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query outsider art. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query outsider art. Sort by date Show all posts

Annual I'm not at the Outsider Art Fair 2017 post. Are Cartoonists Outsider Artists? Elizabeth Stohn and Fred Johnson












These drawings were done from 1918 to 1919 by Elizabeth Stohn.  Ms Stone was a child at the time, and was something of a "cross-category" artist.  Part Schoolgirl art, part naive, part trained (as she had just completed her "art school training" by correspondence school. )  Certainly not what is generally considered "outsider" art, though that term is pretty widely applied as far as I can tell.  These are folky and charming, but not really folk art either.  Outsider Art? Nah.
 

While thousands of women studied art and (like Ms. Stohn) aspired to be an artist, even naming early woman artists is hard.  They were screwed over ever since they were here in every field.  Why should art (or comics, for that matter) be the domain of men?  Plus, here is a secret…they were often better than the men and never received the credit.  They were lost and laboring as "anonymous" in quilting, needle-point, and other acceptable near domestic arts.   

Labels appropriate to Ms. Stohn could maybe include "rebel" too.  I have written about her life and how she was one of the first women to use "thought and caption" balloons.  That post sorta went mini-viral in the comic book world, being picked up by comic historians and suchThe Comics journal linked to it as well. One day I hope to scan her entire "graphic novel"  From Poverty to Luxary (sic)

I remember respected art scholar and dealer Randall Morris saying something like "Cartoonists have their own school, they aren't outsider artists" and I don't differ with him.  Still there are many standards being applied on the walls of the outsider art fair, and each show will continue the mixed blessing of being labeled as an outsider. 

"I know it when I see it" was used to describe pornography by Justin Potter when ruling in a landmark obscenity case heard by the Supreme Court in 1964. I am pretty sure he threw his hands up when he said it.  "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..." he said.  We should avoid that esteemed opinion when evaluating outsider art.  


A wonderful group of  "comic books" were one of discoveries at the last Outsider Art Fair.  I'll guess he took some courses too, but it is a guess.  Dan Nadel would be the person to ask. I sure would love to see them, but as I say, I wasn't there. 

(There was another Johnson (real name Ferd or Ferdinand Johnson) working at the same time in Chicago, and he became quite well-known among other cartoonists.  Same fellow? I can't tell…I didn't go go cartoonist school! (joke)  It was certainly not the same fellow,  but neither of them were being "obsessive" about drawing.  They were just doing what comic book artists do.  That would be filling page after page with drawings.  Ask Gary Panter, a great artist who is not an outsider.  He published a massive book containing his sketchbooks.  Read the great essay on Frank, the outsider HERE by Dan Nadel.  There were other great cartoon artists (Basil Wolverton, Windsor McCay for example) and there were plenty of bizarre comic strip artists who were visionaries.  Mr. Nadel knows his stuff…See the magnificent volumes he put together on some HERE. Any library specializing in any art must have these two books.  Like the books displayed at the last outsider art fair, he reveals dozens of quirky and magnificently talented artists, be they self-taught or not.


Ponder on what an outsider artist is, and if the work you are appraising fits some arbitrary non-definition like Justice Steven's frustrated legal opinion of smut, ponder more. Everyone has their own concept. But can we agree, at least, that if one went to art school, he isn't an outsider?  Outsider Art...I know it when I see it.

Other articles in the I'm Not at the Outsider Art Fair series are HERESee also two books on Folk art Outsider art by the writer Jim Linderman HERE and HERE.

I'm not at the Outsider Art Fair 2020 Annual Post Children's Art Art Brut ?

The Outsider Art Fair snuck up on me this year, and while I haven't gone in a decade, for the same amount of time I've tried to come up with something interesting to share during the season.  This year the showing of Children's Artworks of the 1930s from the Kuniyoshi Collection made a choice easy, as I've been fascinated by the relationship between schooling and art creation a long time.  The psychological aspects of development through exposure to public schooling and mass media is relatable to both Outsider Art and and that of trained artists, children and otherwise.  I've collected some good examples of art from the age of development in which artists become artists…and the tools and techniques provided through schooling.  There is a period when artists decide they have become artists. 

From the start, I've avoided refrigerator art.  I suppose every child for the last hundred years in the United States has been handed paints and brushes in class at some time.  However, it is the exceptional students I look for.  Quirky examples with both beauty and some wonder…those with a little extra drive and motivation.  In each case, I will link to further pieces which have been posted here.  Hopefully, what will be revealed is a dozen categories of interest.


An example of the broad strokes and "folky" art of a child.  The subject matter is important, as Lou Gehrig was likely a hero to the artist.  This is an example of what I call Refrigerator Art.  If you are a parent, you'll understand. Anonymous c. 1939  Original Post



Boys like to draw war and weapons.  It is unfortunate we live in a world in which they are common.  Still, the most lovely and interesting work can be characterized by the same creative impulses which arise in in a child in a manner similar to that of talented adults.  Kenneth Hetrick 1931 
Original Post

In this case, it is a schoolgirl drawing the Man of Steel and Lois.  A good example of art influenced by popular culture, yet still showing an individualistic approach. Audrey K. circa 1950 
Original Post 


Handmade books by children are common.  Here,  a schoolgirl creates a nice one using the preferred paper of children.  Manila!  Darlene Olds 1934  Original Post



Pages from a miniature cookbook 4" x 6" created circa 1940 - 1945 by Carol Birkett and her friend Patty.  Original text directions and a few clipped from magazines.  Original Post


The cover of a handmade sewing manual created as a class assignment. The woman on the cover is reading her own book!  Anonymous Circa 1950? Original post

Story of the Corn from scarecrow to the popper!  A narrative by an anonymous 19th century child.
Original Post


Art lessons in crayon.  Anonymous practice design reflecting school training circa 1910.  
Original Post

Dazzling detail on an Ohio schoolhouse by Ora Maxwell circa 1890.  It is often difficult to determine if a drawing is "folk art" or "art by a child" as  any distinctions can blur.  Original Post
A Jester performs.  An example from the numerous "coloring books" distributed in the late 19th century.  This drawing was copied from a commercial example provided for students to replicate in their own hand.  Anonymous circa 1900 Original Post



Circa 1880 Frederich Froebel paper weavings created by children in some of the more enlightened schools.  The educator and scholar was responsible for fitting lots of children into a world where color worked and lines mattered.  Anonymous Original Post



Examples of pre-punched sewing cards which were popular in teaching situations from 1880 on.  Young woman were taught the skills of domestic chores...and the subject matter was often religious.  Moral instruction while learning dexterity.  Anonymous completed sewing cards.
Original Post




The last examples are cheating, as they were drawn by a "Magic Pattern" toy from the 1930s or so.  Similar to the later common Spirograph!  Still, likely "drawn" by a child.
Original Post

There are plenty of other beautiful examples of art created by the young.  I avoid the psychological and developmental implications when looking for examples to collect.  I'll leave that up to the educators!  Many more examples are found on the blog.  
OTHER EXAMPLES OF I'm not at the outsider art show ARE FOUND ON THE BLOG WITH A CLICK...but one can just browse. See also this CLICK.  Many of the examples here were self published in my book Eccentric Folk Art Drawings of the 19th and 20th Centuries available in a paperback or an affordable instant download.




Annual Outsider Art Fair Post 2017. Hawkins Bolden Garden of African-American Outsider Art Sculpture




Mr. Bolden's make-do scarecrows have attracted attention from collectors (and some scholars) for many years now…but you don't really need a scarecrow unless you have a garden. If you ever wondered what a blind man's garden might look like, this is it.  Years had passed since he laid it out and surrounded it with muscular figures, somehow, from his mind's eye.  The only eyes Bolden had were taken from him as a child while playing in Memphis, TN.

Like the figures for which Bolden has become known, the garden is tactile as much as visual…and each piece was placed by the artist.  Don't expect any precise lines. This garden was laid out by hand, not sight or surveyor…and by an artist feeling for proper placement with his hands alone. No taut line of string and chalk to follow. As such, Mr. Bolden's garden has more than a little in common with the abstract and varying panels of an African-American improvisational quilt.  Seen from above, it might have appeared  to be a quilt made from scraps, but in rusted steel.

Quilts from Signs and Symbols: African Images in African-American Quilts - Maude Southwell Wahlman, Penguin: 1993.  Sourced HERE

But is it imbued with more? Hawkins Bolden (and his sister) were born on the same day  in 1914.  Why is this relevant?  It places his youth only a lifetime from the Civil War and 50 years before the Civil Rights Act.  Scholars of African-American art might think it possible he retained deep-rooted African esthetics and meaning, blind or not.  Subconscious or not. Historical, psychological and tenacious attempts to hold on to traditions left behind.

Can a blind man play the blues? Yes…if he has them.

Or is it no deeper than a man wanting to make something he could.  Not black, not white, but simply an anomaly?  Are the figures "art" only when recognized as such by collectors and removed from the original environment and presented on a white wall?

His own explanations for the scarecrows were tossed off and lighthearted…but then would Mr. Bolden have learned decades before that African-American men were taught to avoid boasting by the dominant white culture? Did he learn to dismiss his art with humor and deflection as a survival technique?  He lived in a state which did not even allow interracial marriage until 1967.  A state which begrudgingly gave in but still retains the law on their books.

How can one ask an artist who has never seen his own work what it means?

Note the rudimentary stakes.  Each has some shape or form which makes it more than a simple pole.  Old handles, nozzles and angular forms of industrial purpose.  Salvage and scrap, but made to live again.  Several of Mr. Bolden's masks and figures line the area.  One piece consists of the discarded base to an electric fan. It has been given eyes and a long, soggy tongue (or beard?) made of carpet. Imagine that…a sculpture given eyes by a blind man.  A larger piece on the other side of the property hangs adorned with rags for straw hair.
At  the 2016 Outsider Art Fair, the SHRINE GALLERY created an installation recreating the garden.  Photo Credit Claire Voon for Hyperallergic used with permission.

It is fraught…or even indulgent to speculate about Mr. Bolden's sculpture.  Who are we to understand this place while only we can see? It took a fairly sophisticated sighted person to appreciate the work while wandering home from a tavern.  I hesitate to use "saved" as the original environment is gone…but wide open (if bleary) eyes recognized this place was profound. Mr. Bolden leaves us with instruction to see clearly but that sometimes mystery  and wonder is all we can know..  Even a glance is precious and a gift we should not take for granted.


Dull Tool Dim Bulb runs an annual post relevant to the Outsider Art Fair.  Previous posts over the years include Sister Gertrude Morgan, Basil Merrett,  Nyla Thompson, Asa Moore, Justin McCarthy and more…search for "outsider art" in the blog's search box.

See also Claire Voon review of the 2016 Outsider Art Fair HERE Shrine Gallery is HERE
See also the film MAKE by Malcom Hearn which shows the artist at work.  Available HERE
William Arnett article on Hawkins Bolden HERE at the Souls Grown Deep site.
Hawkins Bolden Environment photos by Jim Linderman 1994. Books and ebooks by the author on folk art and photography HERE

Outsider Art Fair 20th Anniversary Review from Afar 2012




No, the pictures above are not from the Outsider Art Fair 20th anniversary.

Viewing the 20th anniversary outsider art fair from afar, through slide shows, it appears after all that time the field (as I hate to call it) is still confused, too inclusive and loaded with baggage. At best a misnomer, the term has been squabbled over for so long I gave up, but with distance and time, I will revisit.


Shown here is the material which first attracted my eye, the Black Folk Art show of 1982. A magnificent exhibition of material which was mistakenly included under the rubric of outsider art around the same time, but a show which to this day remains as one of the best curated art shows of my lifetime.


The true defining criteria for anyone being marketed as an outsider is a complete lack of training in the arts. No schooling and I'm not fooling. I have always felt anyone aware enough of the art world to claim to be an outsider doesn't qualify AS an outsider. I don't mind artists, dealers or collectors fighting over the definition, if they still do..but once again it is obvious a few ringers are slipping in. People who even begin to utter "I am an outsider artist" do not pass the test. And no, art school "drop-outs" do NOT qualify either. Neither does anything from an "other-worldly" environment, culture or country if it is part of the regional milieu.


The other primary criteria is that the artists work in some form of isolation. This could be as a result of institutionalization, a lack or educational opportunities, a religious fervor, an undefined particular visionary impulse...you name it...but while creating their initial body of work they have no idea anyone else is doing it, and they make it all from their own devices. No looking at Sotheby's catalogs or finding a "how to paint" brochure at the flea market. None. NONE.

However, the "trained or untrained" aspect, dicey enough, isn't the most unfortunate definitional failure of the material or the show. It is the inherent dichotomy of lumping together artists who come from no school and FIT into no school together in one place. How can a group of artists be labeled and lumped as outsiders when by definition they have absolutely nothing to do with each other?

Which is why I show the photographs above. You see, these artists DID come from a "school" of sorts. All the artists included in the Black Folk Art show had something in common...all were from fairly early generations which were descendants of slaves. They thus, to some degree or another, shared the common experience of having been displaced...and all held again, to some degree, a shared African-American esthetic which was retained, unconscious or not, in their work. They shared a common origin (to the extent that their ancestors were taken from one huge continent and brought to another) and they shared an inherent consistency of cultural artistic expression. Which is why together they formed a successful exhibition. Not really a "school" mind you, as originally none of them had any idea the others existed, but an esthetic. They lacked educational skills, formal training and awareness of the arts but that was the result of racism more than any other circumstance.

They were mistakenly included originally as "outsiders" when the field formed, and their works still appear here and there as by far the best work in the outsider show. Bill Traylor, Sam Doyle, William Edmondson. Even the lesser known and lesser skilled George Williams, whose frontal totemic carved figures look quite smart above. I say the best work, but that still doesn't mean they belong there.

There is other good work at the show...I presume the magnificent Electric Pencil work was there, and I suspect James Castle was represented, but they were true isolates with completely unique consistent visions. In other words, they qualify but they do not belong.


Unfortunately the few rare genuine articles and the Black folk artists from the exhibition pictured above continue to be presented in a forum which persists to lump together all manner of eccentrics, wanna-bees and what a good friend of mine used to refer to, with little irony, as "failed trained artists" on the walls with no intellectual validity or foundation other than a good weekend bourse. In other words, a good show to visit but not to write about.

Pair of original "installation view" photographs by Michelle Andonian 1983 Collection Jim Linderman

THE American Painter Justin McCarthy Annual I am not at the Outsider Art Fair Paris 2016 post

 
Justin McCarthy untitled Collection Jim Linderman

Justin McCarthy Nude circa 1965 Collection Jim Linderman
 
Justin McCarthy "The Last Supper" private collection Slotin Folk Art Auction


 
Justin McCarthy "Yankees Stadium" Private Collection


Justin McCarthy "Goodyear Blimp" Private Collection

"He didn't know he was painting quirky.  He thought he was painting straight."  So said Justin McCarthy's major benefactor the painter Sterling Strauser.  "People often found it difficult to believe that he was a self-taught naïve, because…some of his things look like Emil Nolde, some look like Milton Avery – people that he was not aware of at all. They look like Ernst Kirchner. Some of his watercolors look like Demuth. This is all purely accidental.”  Nancy Green Karlins (who wrote her PHD dissertation on McCarthy) writes: “McCarthy’s intense line, non-naturalistic color and exaggerated drawing are more characteristic of German Expressionism than of most eighteenth-and nineteenth-century American folk art…"

Art scholars have to explain the work of Justin McCarthy by placing him in context with other better known (and better trained) artists.  How else to discuss him?  There IS no appropriate context.  A little of this, a little of that, but really all one of a kind.  Once you have seen a few of his works, you will recognize them but you might not understand them.  Sterling Strauser (actually his wife Dorothy) saw them first sprawled on the grass in a Pennsylvania Town Square.  He recalled thinking how much he would like to see one of them in a frame.  They were priced high, as McCarthy knew he wasn't going to sell any, so why not?   He was a completely self-taught naive recluse who lived most of his long life in a depreciating mansion in Weatherly, PA. 

That is, when he wasn't in a mental institution. Sterling Strauser once told me "McCarthy cured himself through painting." Certainly he had the persistence and gumption to do it.  Evidence of his earliest work here shows it.

The earliest dates to 1915, while he was confined.  A primitive form only, in crayon, from a rudimentary sketchbook he created by gluing individual pages of drawings onto those already in a printed book.  "A Gibson Girl" is a purple shadow showing little or none of his promise.  It wasn't long until he progressed to the formal "Miss Moran" shown following from Galerie Bonheur.

Justin McCarthy "A Gibson Girl from the Follies" circa 1915 - 1920 Collection Jim Linderman

Justin McCarthy "Miss Moran" circa 1920 Galerie Bonheur
 
Justin McCarthy Private Collection

McCarthy came a wealthy family, but one with tragedy.  His father and brother died early and the young man's breakdown followed.  He tried to follow in his father's footsteps.  He tried law school but failed. There was some work over the years, including some time in the Pennsylvania Steel yards which resulted in a spectacular painting full of heat and smoke. 
Justin McCarthy Bethlehem Steel Private Collection
His brother was favored growing up and young Justin was shy. One pleasant and persistent memory had to have been the visit he had to the Louvre in Paris.  Only the wealthy could afford a trip to Paris at that time, and they went.  He was apparently left alone in the museum, and it stuck.

As his early, primitive institutionalized drawings developed he signed them with pseudonyms but often didn't sign them at all.  

After some five years, he was allowed back home to the mansion his father had owned and remained there most of his life.  During this time(though no one but his mother had seen the work) he filled the house with astounding vibrant quick explosions of color. He was a prolific and fearless artist. The Great American artist. Nothing escaped his eye and he would paint anything. Eventually even the unused stove and the bathtub were filled with paintings.  Strauser describes piles of work in every room.

Justin McCarthy Private Collection

Justin McCarthy Private Collection

Justin McCarthy Private Collection

Justin McCarthy Private Collection

They are both absurd and beautiful. Sports figures drawn while watching television and filled with color later. Some from life but imbued with his own.The pages of National Geographic Magazine. Some remembered from the early motion picture projector his wealthy father had at the mansion.  Gallerist and curator Randall Morris once described McCarthy as having a "cinematic style" which may have developed as he was a young boy watching flickering images.  His quick "wet on wet" working technique may have been an attempt to capture them. It was a practice he continued his entire artistic life. I believe he succeeded. 

A range of works drawn from the web give some indication to his unusual style and complete mastery of color.  The artist created work from 1915 up to his death in 1977.
 

See Also:   
Gene Epstein "What Kind of Art is This?" Folk Art Magazine Winter 1992 Pages 51


American Folk Art Museum McCarthy collection
 

Nancy Green Karlins "Justin McCarthy" 1891-1977 The Making of a 20th Century Self Taught Painter Dissertation Ph. D. New York University 1986

Randall Morris "The Cinematic "I" : Justin McCarthy 1984 Noyes Museum

Early sketchbooks and memories of Sterling Strauser are in the collection of the Archives of American Art Smithsonian Museum of Art 

See also two books on Folk art Outsider art by the writer Jim Linderman HERE and HERE.
A few other posts in my unstructured and informal Outsider Art series are shown HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE   More or less.  Additional works by Basil Merrett are HERE.