Outsider Art Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3266 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 20  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Outsider Art

It is called "Outsider Art," because it stands outside the realm of "fine" art. It is painted by patients in asylums. It is created by prisoners in their cells. It is made up by untrained artists and thus considered self-taught. It also goes by other names: na f, naive, Art Brut, to list the most common. Tattoos were once worn by a select group of Americans, but now adorn all ages and backgrounds. Computer nerds or geek were once laughed at and singled out, but now receive top billing in television commercials. Outsider Art once only hung on the walls of a select few who saw the energy and compassion within its frames. Now it is collected by the most well-known collectors. The question thus arises when something becomes popular or "in" does it continue to be "outside"? Can "Outsider Art" continue in the years to come?

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Confusion and disagreement surrounds the term Outsider Art in the United States. The derivation comes from Jean Dubuffet and his peers such as Andre Breton who, in 1948, formed the Compagnie de l'Art Brut (Raw Art) to look for and collect works of complete individuality and uniqueness. The works were done by individuals who not only were untrained artists but most likely had no concept of other forms of artistic expression other than their own. The Compagnie de l'Art's idea to collect this art developed when first seeing the creations completed by Adolf Wolfli in a Swiss mental asylum while under the care of psychiatrist xxx Morganthaler. This was not the first such instance of asylum art thus recognized: Dr. Hans Prinzhorn had displayed thousands of works by psychiatric patients in his 1922 book Bildernerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the Mentally Ill), which became well-known with Surrealist artists (Cardinal, 14).

Dubuffet characterized "Art Brut" in 2003 as:

TOPIC: Term Paper on Outsider Art Assignment

Those works created from a solitary place and from pure and authentic creative impulses - where the worries of competition, acclaim and social promotion do not interfere - are, because of these very facts, more precious than the productions of professions. After a certain familiarity with these flourishings of an exalted feverishness, live so fully and so intensely by their authors, we cannot avoid the feeling that in relation to these works, cultural art in its entirety appears to be the game of a futile society, a fallacious parade. (Dubuffet)

Michel Thevoz, the curator of the Debuffet collection, now housed in a museum in Lausanne added his dimension to this definition:

Art Brut' or 'outsider art' consists of works produced by people who for various reasons have not been culturally indoctrinated or socially conditioned. They are all kinds of dwellers on the fringes of society. Working outside fine art 'system' (schools, galleries, museums and so on), these people have produced, from the depths of their own personalities and for themselves and no one else, works of outstanding originality in concept, subject and techniques. They are works which owe nothing to tradition or fashion. (Dubuffet)

Debuffet differentiated "Art Brut" producers from others who tried to enter the commercial market or had even the slightest contact with the peripheries of the artistic realm. He put these artists into a category called "Neuve Invention" or "fresh invention." He said that works by these creators are comparable in power and inventiveness, but their greater contact with normal society and awareness of their art preclude inclusion within the strict "Art Brut" category. These "Neuve Invention" creators, he added, often create in their spare time. They are frequently eccentric and untrained artists trying to make a living from their work, some of whom have dealings with commercial galleries. "Art Brut" artists, on the other hand, develop their own methods, frequently using very different approaches and materials. Further, they create products for their own personal worth, as a kind of "private theatre." They do not care about other people's opinions and often keep their work secret.

Debuffet also considered "Art Brut" different than primitive "Naif/Naive Artists," who remain in the mainstream of painting proper, even if they do not exactly practice its style. After World War I, the cultured in Europe began developing an interest in self-taught creators. Such artists such as Henri Rousseau, called "naives" (based on a negative idea of Rousseau's personality), were creating their artistic works throughout Europe but especially France. Whereas the Naive artists with their conventional approach looked outward to their surroundings for inspiration, the "Art Brut" creators peered inward to internal visions that meant something only to themselves.

Artists and collectors familiar with European modernism brought the concept of self-taught art to the United States in the 1920s and '30s. Initially, there was considerable interest in the Na f/Na ve genre, as well as earlier American folk artifacts. However, when institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art promised to support self-taught art, the genre quickly became commonplace throughout the country and artistic interest turned to Abstract Expressionism.

Roger Cardinal has been one of the most well-known experts on this topic. In his book Outsider Art, he disagreed with Debuffet's differentiation between "Art Brut" artists, who exist out of the mainstream, and other artists such as those called "Neuve Invention," who were supposedly on the fringes. He wrote "I can see what Dubuffet meant, but... "Neuve Invention is no more than a buffer zone situated in between Cultural Art and Outsider Art proper - another disputed strip of land, another vexed border to patrol and defend! I hope that people will trample around for a bit, so that the line gets erased." The term "Outsider Art" and its all-inclusive nature thus became increasingly popular from the 1970s on.

In the United States, another expansion of the term "Outside Art" occurred in the 1980s. The term "Folk Art" once had been an expansive American concept that was sometimes divided into "Traditional Folk Art" or pre-industrial crafts such as Shaker furniture and quilts, and "Contemporary Folk Art" or non-traditional products of self-taught artists. Today, the terms "Contemporary Folk" and "Outsider" are used synonymous by a majority of people.

Jennifer Borum, another specialist on "Outsider Art," stresses how much is contained under the term of "outsider" when used in the U.S. "The purist notion that true "Art Brut" is culturally rootless, limited to four walls of the asylum cell, and must therefore be on the decline in the age of information, is simply not applicable in America." Here spontaneous creations of "Art Brut" may appear anywhere from the cover of an entertainment magazine, to the bottom of a skateboard, to a wall in a subway to a tattoo and to a design in an inner city Latino neighborhood. As a result of its wide usage, the term "outsider" has thus become very hazy, with no one knowing for sure who is in and who is out. Every few years, an entirely new generation of individuals, all of whom would have fallen into the "Neuve Invention" camp in earlier decades create new artistic landscapes (Raw Vision).

Compared to Europe, America was late on the scene to appreciate "Outsider

Art" in all its forms. It took the appearance of postmodernist ideas in popular culture and the mass media to be a catalyst (Rhodes 15). However, over the years, there have been some similarities among those creators who are known for existing outside of the mainstream. They are often the disenfranchised -- the mentally ill, prisoners or slaves. As a result, they also are frequently society's most poor and needy. Most have suffered a trauma of some kind that has encouraged latent artistic abilities.

Henry J. Darger, who lost his parents when he was a young boy in Chicago during the early 1900s, was placed in a Catholic boys' home. Later, he was transferred to an asylum for feeble-minded children, possibly for doing nothing more than masturbating. After a series of attempts, Darger escaped from the asylum when he was 16 and Shortly started composing an epic that recorded his secret struggle to understand how God could deny him his entire family and a normal boyhood. Once he started this saga, he continued the writings and accompanying artwork for the next 60 years (Rubin 4).

Eddie Arning of the United States (Rhodes 137), began drawing in 1964 after his symptoms of mental illness disappeared. His themes included the normal human experiences such as people eating, working and participating in leisure activities. He had a unique decorative style that used magazine illustrations and advertisements as source material but had his individualized personalized style that grew out of the years he had been hospitalized. Although some people compare him to the pop artists, there are distinct differences, especially since Arning's work does not include the irony and wit of Pop Art. Instead, his images contain an honesty and visualization as the artist truly sees the real world.

Only after a generation after slavery, Minnie Evans of North Carolina was raised by her grandmother in impoverished conditions. In 1935 at the age of 43,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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