Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Early Outsider Art --- Day 2/283

Walk: CPMC, Mindful Body
Distance: 2 miles and teach yoga class 

Adolf Wölfli's Irren-Anstalt Band-Hain, 1910

A friend asked about an 'outsider artist' a while ago.  Outsider Art is often/sometimes misapplied as a catch-all marketing label for art created by people outside the mainstream "art world," regardless of their circumstances or the content of their work.  Taggers, eg, the very famous Banksy, are often in this 'groovy' category these days.

But the original label - art brut - was created by French artist Jean Dubuffet and focused particularly on art by those far outside the established art scene such as insane asylum inmates and (disturbed) children.

The first well known 'outsider artist' was Adolf Wolfli, a Swiss who was confined to a psychiatric hospital for most of his adult life.  He became known through his doctor, who published a book on Wolfli, A Psychiatric Patient as Artist (English translation) in 1921.  As a psychotic mental patient Wolfli had taken up drawing, which seemed to calm him and eventually produced an illustrated epic of his own imaginary life story in 45 volumes. It is said to have 25,000 pages, 1,600 illustrations and 1,500 collages and is on display at The Adolf Wolfli Foundation in the Museum of Fine Art, Bern.  (And, according to a friend, to be available on Amazon for $2,000)!

Another defining moment in the early history of Outsider Art came in 1922 when Artistry of the Mentally Ill, a compilation of thousands of psychiatric art works from European institutions, was published by Dr. Hans Prinzhorn. The book and the collected works gained much attention from avante-gard artists, including Franz Marc, Paul Klee, Max Ernst and Jean Dubuffet. 

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