|Judy A Saslow Gallery
300 West Superior - Chicago IL 60654
phone 312.943.0530 - fax 312.943.3970
www.jsaslowgallery.com - email@example.com
Tues-Fri 11-6, Saturday 11-5
What is Outsider Art?
Today, the term outsider art means different things to different people, but there are generally some key points on which a majority would agree. The French artist Jean Dubuffet wrote the first known definition in 1949, and his description still holds true in many respects. At that time, he used the term art brut (which translates from French to mean literally "raw art") to describe what was so distinctive about his own collection of artworks. What was meant by this term is work produced by people immune to artistic culture, where there is little or no trace of mimicry; such creators owe everything - their subject matter, their choice of materials, their modes of transcription, their rhythms and styles of drawing and so on - to their own resources rather than to the stereotypes of artistic fashion.
What Dubuffet described so many years ago is still considered to be a basic definition of outsider art: works produced by artists who are independent of conventional artistic traditions, responding to an urgent and personal need to make artworks. Unlike community or folk art, which is part of a specific culture such as African or Japanese art, outsider art is non-traditional, unique, the expression of a single individual.
In 1951, when Jean Dubuffet traveled to the United States for the first time, he came with two important missions. One was to oversee the installation of his entire Collection de l'Art Brut on Long Island; the second was to meet a group of prominent Chicagoans who Dubuffet described as "the fiercely independent Chicago collectors, led by Maurice Culberg, whose dedicated enthusiasm for this work was born of their historical commitment to surrealism, tribal art and figurative painting." It was, however, in "primitive-psychotic-popular culture-expressionistic oriented" Chicago that Dubuffet's remarkable collection and his theories had their greatest influence. If many American art communities have neglected outsider art, it has been historically celebrated in Chicago.
By 1972, Art Brut was sufficiently familiar across the United States that the art critic Roger Cardinal coined the term 'Outsider Art' to help explain it to American audiences. Looking beyond artworks made by patients in psychiatric care, the term was used to describe works by people who were creating outside the traditional art world, anyone, Cardinal explained, who was "innocent of pictorial influences and perfectly untutored."
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