Jean Dubuffet was the intrepid explorer who first brought Art Brut (meaning "raw art") into cultural consciousness. He was inspired by his enormous collection of art produced by children and the insane -- Dubuffet felt these works escaped the pretense and... [more]
Jean Dubuffet was the intrepid explorer who first brought Art Brut (meaning "raw art") into cultural consciousness. He was inspired by his enormous collection of art produced by children and the insane -- Dubuffet felt these works escaped the pretense and schooled techniques of professional artists. "I want to replace Western Art with that of the jungle, the lavatory, the mental institution - "art brut," Dubuffet said.
Dubuffet even imitated - quite paradoxically - these "techniques" in his own work. His oeuvre, together with his collection, essentially gave impetus to Art Brut. Following his lead, others also emulated the uncultured spontanaeity of the child, the mad passion of the insane.
It was Dubuffet who started to work in sand, dirt, stone, and wood. He mixed pigments into these materials, applied them to his canvas, then scratched thin lines into the erratic terrain. In the resulting work, elemental forces are tangible, as chunks of wood and stone bulge up from the eclectically assembled surface. The medium is not a mere vehicle for the artist's message; rather, it is meant to be expressive in itself. The specific nature of the material -- its texture, density, and weight - dictates how the artists employs it. The result is a kind of Primitivism, a valorization of the natural and a rejection of excessively formalized, academic techniques.
Spontaneity and madness are also key characteristics of what is known as Outsider Art. The work of Henry Darger is an exemplary case: Darger created a world of fantastically drawn derangement, its features projected in proportions both perverse and magnificent. And he did this work in total isolation and obscurity, sheltered from the influence of art critics. Darger lived on the outskirts of society, quite literally an outsider: he had no academic training and his work defies inclusion within any school.
It is precisely the academy that Outsider Art escapes. As Roger Cardinal put it, Outsider Art rejects "that force which feeds on blind obedience, fidelity to stereotypes, the denial of spontaneity, the repression of individualism and experimentation." Like Art Brut before it, Outsider Art looks to alternative methods and materials, creating work that might normally not be categorized as art at all. In a sense, Outsider Art has always existed, created every time a mind unknowingly produces a piece of aesthetic greatness.
Initially Dubuffet's methods and sources of inspiration had no name: there was no category to which the art of children and the insane belonged. Should we be suspicious that rubrics such as Art Brut and Outsider Art have since been created? Is there an inherent conflict in the acceptance of these categories by trained artists and art critics? Can we develop "techniques" based on what is supposedly primitive? Perhaps the "outside" has already been folded back in. And perhaps this was inevitable, for the conscious cultivation of spontaneity, insanity, and naivete is inherently paradoxical. [show less]
Rodia emigrated from Italy to the US at age 15 with a brother. He lived in Pennsylvania until his brother was killed in a mining accident, at which point he moved to the west coast. He first lived in Seattle, then Oakland, and then Long Beach before settling in Watts in the e ...