Thursday, January 24, 2019

Outsider Art Fair

In New York, the first relevant fair of the new year is the January Outsider Art Fair, which I eagerly attend as a visitor, but also hoping to find my identity as artist. I am not sure of being an outsider, considering that my doctoral degree is in Art and Education—yet in my art practice I have mainly used media and languages often outside more traditional art. And if not outsider, I am definitely unrecognized.

The definition outsider art was introduced by the art historian Roger Cardinal in 1972, as an English term for ‘Art Brut’ by French artist Jean Dubuffet. In a later article Cardinal wrote:
Outsider Art (art brut) is defined as a mode of original artistic expression which thrives on its independence, shunning the public sphere and the art market. Such art can be highly idiosyncratic and secretive, and reflects the individual creator's attempt to construct a coherent, albeit strange, private world. Certain practitioners of what may be termed autistic art are examined in the light of this definition; their work is considered as evidence not of a medical condition but of an expressive intentionality entirely worthy of the interest of those drawn to the aesthetic experience. [1]
Often defined as 'self-taught" or naïve art, Outsider Art includes art created outside the "official" art production. Cardinal's use of the term "autistic" is particular relevant given the common association between what is considered mental illness, or disability, and creative expression.

The Outsider Art Fair was founded in 1993 by  Sanford L. Smith and held at the Metropolitan Pavilion Originally showing just 25 exhibitors, the fair has greatly expanded to include 66 galleries in the current edition.

 In the contemporary art discourse the boundaries of "outsider art" often blur into conceptual or installation art. Often artists whose cutting edge work exhibit architectural or multidisciplinary content are considered part of the outsider art world—the late Paul Laffoley comes to mind.Yet the Outsider Art fair has become the main rendezvous for artist, galleries and collectors outside the most commercial and elitist venues.

Below a few snapshot of my favorite works from the 2019 edition of the Outsider Fair. To be continued...

Work by late artist James Edward Deeds presented by Adler & Hirsh 

Finally one of the most important aspect of Outsider Art, as 

1. Cardinal, Roger. "Outsider Art and the autistic creator." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 364, no. 1522 (2009): 1459-1466.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Exhibitions | New York: "Hilma af Klimt: Paintings for the Future" at the Guggenheim

So much has been written and said about the thought provoking and visually stunning exhibition "Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future"—which is currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum. Yet the viewing the exhibition has effected me at such extent that I felt compelled to record my observations and share my visual memories.

The Swedish artist Hilma Af Klint (1862-1944) graduated from the Stockholm Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1887. Initially her work included figurative paintings until she became involved with spiritualism, theosophy and later anthroposophy; she met Rudolf Steiner and spent long periods at the Goetheanum. Her spiritual involvement and mystical experiences had a major influence on her artistic production, which evolved into nonobjective work. Af Klint was involved in the group of female artists "The Five" (de Fem), engaging in séances. The group developed graphical work expressing spiritual ideas as messages from higher spirits, called The High Masters ("Höga Mästare"). An outstanding example is provided by the series "Paintings for the Temple" (1906 and 1915), which were "commissioned" to af Klint by one of the High Masters ; the paintings are based on geometric forms evolving in biomorphic shapes and are envisioned to be installed these works in a spiral temple. It is quite uncanny how they are exhibited in the helicoidal ramp of the Guggenheim Museum, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as “a temple of the spirit.”

Geometric shapes—spirals, circles, helices—are the primary vocabulary of forms for af Klimt, who develops complex patterns out of such primitives.Works come in series and often studied with rigor in sketchbooks, also part of the exhibition at the Guggenheim. The artist seems to anticipate of almost a century main explorations of the contemporary design discourse, such as shape grammars and parametricism. Af Klint's use of art as science exploration or design is so ahead of her times and her artistic expression seems to be a means of exploration and demonstration of mathematical and scientific themes, in what we would define as STEAM approach to knowledge production.

Hilma af Klint died in 1944 and in her will there were specific instructions about not exhibiting her work for at least twenty years after her death.

Symmetry explorations, from geometry to the world of nature

A vocabulary of geometric forms: the circle

Painting as architectural design: "Paintings for the Temple" (1906-1915)