Outsider art is art by self-taught or naïve art makers. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work is discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.
The term outsider art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut , a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by those on the outside of the established art scene, using as examples psychiatric hospital patients and children.
Art brut is the term by which the painter Jean Dubuffet refers to the productions of people without artistic culture. He has grouped some of these productions into a collection, the Collection of Art Brut in Lausanne. The term art brut comes from Jean Dubuffet: “August 28, 1945, Dubuffet baptizes” art brut “an art that collects for several years, art which includes at the same time the art of the fools and that marginalized people of all kinds: prisoners, recluses, mystics, anarchists or rebels – Laurent Danchin – Martine Lusardy -1995, “we can not reduce his interest in the art of fools on this date alone.
While Dubuffet’s term is quite specific, the English term “outsider art” is often applied more broadly, to include certain self-taught or naïve art makers who were never institutionalized Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions In many cases, their work is discovered only after their deaths Often, outsider art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds
Outsider art has emerged as a successful art marketing category; an annual Outsider Art Fair has taken place in New York since 1993, and there are at least two regularly published journals dedicated to the subject. The term is sometimes misapplied as a catch-all marketing label for art created by people who are outside the mainstream “art world” or “art gallery system”, regardless of their circumstances or the content of their work.
Art of the mentally ill
Interest in the art of the mentally ill, along with that of children and the makers of “peasant art”, was first demonstrated by “Der Blaue Reiter” group: Wassily Kandinsky, Auguste Macke, Franz Marc, Alexej Jawlensky, and others. What the artists perceived in the work of these groups was an expressive power born of their perceived lack of sophistication. Examples of this were reproduced in 1912 in the first and only issue of their publication, Der Blaue Reiter Almanac. During World War I, Macke was killed at Champagne in 1914 and Marc was killed at Verdun in 1916; the gap left by these deaths was to some extent filled by Paul Klee, who continued to draw inspiration from these ‘primitives’.
Interest in the art of insane asylum inmates continued to grow in the 1920s. In 1921, Dr. Walter Morgenthaler published his book Ein Geisteskranker als Künstler (A Psychiatric Patient as Artist) about Adolf Wölfli, a psychotic mental patient in his care. Wölfli had spontaneously taken up drawing, and this activity seemed to calm him. His most outstanding work was an illustrated epic of 45 volumes in which he narrated his own imaginary life story. With 25,000 pages, 1,600 illustrations, and 1,500 collages, it is a monumental work. Wölfli also produced a large number of smaller works, some of which were sold or given as gifts. His work is on display at the Adolf Wölfli Foundation in the Museum of Fine Art, Bern.
A defining moment was the publication of Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the mentally ill) in 1922, by Dr. Hans Prinzhorn. This was the first formal study of psychiatric works, based upon a compilation of thousands of examples from European institutions. The book and the art collection gained much attention from avant-garde artists of the time, including Paul Klee, Max Ernst, and Jean Dubuffet.
People with some formal artistic training as well as well-established artists are not immune from mental illness, and may also be institutionalized. For example, William Kurelek, later awarded the Order of Canada for his artistic life work, as a young man was admitted to the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital where he was treated for schizophrenia. In hospital he painted, producing The Maze, a dark depiction of his tortured youth. He was transferred from the Maudsley to Netherne Hospital from November 1953 to January 1955, to work with Edward Adamson (1911–1996), a pioneer of art therapy, and creator of the Adamson Collection.
Art beyond established art forms was already created in the works of Arcimboldo, Goya, Hieronymus Bosch and in the sculptures in the Parco dei Mostri of Villa Orsini in Bomarzo.
The related art forms are diverse. A type of Art Brut are works of art from everyday objects, waste and shards, shell-shaped objects, sculptures, ornaments and Land Art examples are the world machine of Franz Gsellmann and the Giardino dei Tarocchi. Another possible hallmark is the horror vacui, obeying it is the entire drawing area or the entire space filled, as it were the implementation of the Messie syndrome, of all fuss and recycling, to artworks.
Jean Dubuffet and art brut
Dubuffet argued that ‘culture’, that is mainstream culture, managed to assimilate every new development in art, and by doing so took away whatever power it might have had. The result was to asphyxiate genuine expression. Art brut was his solution to this problem – only art brut was immune to the influences of culture, immune to being absorbed and assimilated, because the artists themselves were not willing or able to be assimilated.
Dubuffet often redefined art brut, seeking at first to distinguish it from popular art, naive art, children’s drawings, and then creating the “Neuve Invention” in his collection, to which It also incorporates the singular art genre where “landscape dwellers” and “naive” mingle, gathered in an exhibition in 1978 at the Museum of Modern Art in the city of Paris. Often paraphrased, even distorted, these definitions gave rise to confusion.
Its very first definition is given in 1949:
“By this we mean works executed by persons free from artistic culture, in which therefore mimicry, unlike what happens among intellectuals, has little or no share, so that their authors draw everything (subjects, choice of materials used, means of transposition, rhythms, ways of writing, etc.) of their own background and not the clichés of classical art or fashionable art. We attend the artistic operation, pure, raw, reinvented in all its phases by its author, from only his own impulses. Art, therefore, in which the only function of invention is manifest, and not those, constant in cultural art, of the chameleon and the monkey. ”
In a second time, in 1963, Dubuffet widens the definition of Art brut:
“Productions of all kinds – drawings, paintings, embroidery, modeled or carved figures, etc. having a spontaneous and highly inventive character, as little as possible debtors of customary art and cultural clichés, and whose authors are persons obscure or foreign to professional artistic circles. ”
In a third time, it still specifies in the issue of the art brut:
“Works whose authors are people from outside intellectual circles, most often free of all artistic education, and in whom the invention is exercised, thereby, without any impact to alter their spontaneity. ”
The interest in “outsider” practices among twentieth-century artists and critics can be seen as part of a larger emphasis on the rejection of established values within the modernist art milieu. The early part of the 20th century gave rise to Cubism and the Dada, Constructivist and Futurist movements in art, all of which involved a dramatic movement away from cultural forms of the past. Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, for example, abandoned “painterly” technique to allow chance operations a role in determining the form of his works, or simply to re-contextualize existing “readymade” objects as art. Mid-century artists, including Pablo Picasso, looked outside the traditions of high culture for inspiration, drawing from the artifacts of “primitive” societies, the unschooled artwork of children, and vulgar advertising graphics. Dubuffet’s championing of the art brut – of the insane and others at the margins of society – is yet another example of avant-garde art challenging established cultural values.
A number of terms are used to describe art that is loosely understood as “outside” of official culture. Definitions of these terms vary and overlap. Whatever views we have about the value of controversy itself, it is important to sustain creative discussion by way of an agreed vocabulary”. Consequently, they lament the use of “outsider artist” to refer to almost any untrained artist. Untrained, clumsy or naïve. Outsider Art is virtually synonymous with Art Brut in both spirit and meaning, to that rarity of art produced by those who do not know its name.”
Art Brut: literally translated from French means “raw art”; ‘Raw’ in that it has not been through the ‘cooking’ process: the world of art schools, galleries, museums. Originally art by psychotic individuals who existed almost completely outside culture and society. Strictly speaking it refers only to the Collection de l’art brut.
Folk art: Folk art originally suggested crafts and decorative skills associated with peasant communities in Europe – though presumably it could equally apply to any indigenous culture. It has broadened to include any product of practical craftsmanship and decorative skill – everything from chain-saw animals to hub-cap buildings. A key distinction between folk and outsider art is that folk art typically embodies traditional forms and social values, where outsider art stands in some marginal relationship to society’s mainstream.
Intuitive art / Visionary art: Raw Vision Magazine’s preferred general terms for outsider art. It describes them as deliberate umbrella terms. However, Visionary Art unlike other definitions here can often refer to the subject matter of the works, which includes images of a spiritual or religious nature. Intuitive art is probably the most general term available. Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art based in Chicago operates a museum dedicated to the study and exhibition of intuitive and outsider art. The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland is dedicated to the collection and display of visionary art.
Marginal art/Art singulier: Essentially the same as Neuve Invention; refers to artists on the margins of the art world.
Naïve art: Another term commonly applied to untrained artists who aspire to “normal” artistic status, i.e. they have a much more conscious interaction with the mainstream art world than do outsider artists.
Neuve invention: Used to describe artists who, although marginal, have some interaction with mainstream culture. They may be doing art part-time for instance. The expression was coined by Dubuffet too; strictly speaking it refers only to a special part of the Collection de l’art brut.
Visionary environments: Buildings and sculpture parks built by visionary artists – range from decorated houses, to large areas incorporating a large number of individual sculptures with a tightly associated theme. Examples include Watts Towers by Simon Rodia, Buddha Park and Sala Keoku by Bunleua Sulilat, and The Palais Ideal by Ferdinand Cheval.