First published: Summer 2014
Art Brut is terribly fashionable these days, especially in France. For reasons that are complex and linked to a general historical paradigm shift in culture, after decades of semi-clandestine existence it is moving from the margins to the centre and is gaining triple recognition from museums, universities and the market. In the same move, freed from the jealous and possessive passion of its pioneers, it is changing hands, becoming prey to the facilities of vulgarised rediscovery and, like all the other products of an essentially commercial society, it enters the area of “hype,” of promotional strategies, not to say disguised publicity copy. Or else it becomes a bit academic, painstaking, almost tedious, which, for such an extraordinary and imaginatively stimulating domain, is rock bottom.
And so it is that, for better or worse, this wild child, badly brought up, that would never have been allowed at any bourgeois table, is henceforth the subject of an intensive clean-up and recuperation campaign, at the risk of somewhat losing its head and seeing itself largely submerged on the way by the crowd of opportunists, wannabes or imposters.
Maybe because of my familiarity with English and my regular collaboration with non-French-speaking countries, I have always taken (as far as the domain that the French call “Art Brut” or “singular art” goes) what one could call a bilingual perspective; that is to say, one not captive to French conceptualisation and that, in its ability to navigate to and fro between one culture and another, is doubtless closer to the American vision: more pragmatic than theoretical, and seeking to practise flexibly the difficult play between words and things. Concepts designating what is after all a common domain of reference do not overlap between the two languages, and this semantic relativity should make us more cautious in handling labels.
Davor Vrankic (b. 1965) is a Croatian virtuoso living in Paris; a former art student in Sarajevo and Zagreb, he only uses pencil on huge formats and gives life to unreal 3D pictures with pseudo photographic effects. Temptation of Waking Up, 2011–13, graphite lead on paper, 82.7 x 64.6 ins., 210 x 164 cm