KINGSTON, Jamaica — Not too long ago, Jamaica’s tourism-promotion board hired some advertising wizards to cook up a clever slogan to help sell the island’s sunny, Caribbean charms to vacationers from North America. They came up with “We’re more than a beach. We’re a country.”
LONDON — Back in the 1970s, England, the home of such pioneering researchers in the outsider art field as Roger Cardinal and the late Victor Musgrave, played a significant role in calling attention to a subfield which, at that time, was still emerging within the art world’s international terrain.
Yesterday evening’s nationwide PBS broadcast of Kelly Rush’s new documentary short, Emery Blagdon & His Healing Machine, served as a reminder of just what it is that distinguishes the lives and careers of the most exemplary outsider artists.
LONDON — On display in a vitrine at the Victoria and Albert Museum here is a large, black-and-white photo-print depicting the suit of armor Christopher Columbus wore during his journeys to what Europeans came to call “the New World.”
In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously noted, with regard to what exactly constituted “obscenity,” “I know it when I see it.” Similarly, among some art historians, collectors and other experts, just what can or should be considered “folk art” often has been a subject of criteria-questioning debate.
Sometimes an artist may find inspiration in that ineffable zone where, as the French existentialist writer Simone de Beauvoir once observed, “things of the spirit come first.” Sometimes, too, the most evocative art can emerge from the depths of another endlessly abundant, more fugitive source.
When you stand on the shoulders of giants, what do you see — especially if you’re looking through an old Leica M6 rangefinder with a single, well-traveled, 35-millimeter lens, which, over a quarter of a century, has seen a lot?
The Hairy Who is not the backing band of the Austrian pop singer Conchita Wurst. Still, it’s hard to believe the members of the Hairy Who, one of several coteries of artists who came together in the 1960s–1970s under the broader moniker of the Chicago Imagists, would not have celebrated this transgender performer, not so much because she won the Eurovision song contest last weekend or because she is biologically a he, but because, along with voluptuous hair, long lashes and sequined robes, Conchita has a beard.
Al Carbee was an old man who liked dolls.
Has the outsider art field become a victim of its own success? If so, it is a peculiar “victim,” and its success must be measured by standards that go beyond the money-obsessed art world’s primary criterion for determining aesthetic value — the price tag that any specific work happens to sport at any given time.
Plucking something — anything — out of its original context, placing it in a different setting and letting whatever new meanings or implied meanings emerge from the unexpected juxtaposition: such an “appropriationist” gesture lies at the core of postmodernist art-making “strategies.”
Animated, impulsive and a little bit absent-minded, the French-born, Swiss artist Gene Mann packs an intense mix of curiosity, technical experimentation, and joie de vivre into every square inch of her artwork.