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The 8th edition of the Outsider Art Fair Paris will take place from October 21–30, 2020, with both online and in-person components in Paris.

For the first time, the fair will include a hybrid of online and in-person components, with viewing rooms powered by ArtLogic, featuring 39 exhibitors from 29 cities representing 12 countries – one of the most international editions of the Paris fair to date.

 

PATHOLOGIE DU CADRE: QUAND L’ART BRUT S’ÉCLATE

PATHOLOGIE DU CADRE: QUAND L’ART BRUT S’ÉCLATE
Michel Thévoz; preface by Sarah Lombardi
Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 2020
ISBN: 978-2-7073-4639-1
18 euros

How do the notions of the frame and of framing function in the work of art brut creators, and how do these artists break the formal rules imposed by this well-known, compositional device?

In his newest book, Pathologie du cadre: Quand l’Art Brut s’éclate, the Swiss art historian Michel Thévoz examines these topics and these questions. (Written in French, the book’s title can be translated as “Pathology of the Frame: When Art Brut Explodes”.)

Thévoz was a friend and close collaborator of Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), the influential French modern artist who, in the 1940s, first articulated the aesthetic characteristics that typify art brut (“raw art”) and gave the phenomenon its name. Thévoz served as the first director of the Collection de l’Art Brut, the museum Dubuffet founded in Lausanne, Switzerland, which opened in 1976.

Pathologie du cadre: Quand l’art brut s’éclate is a tour de force of eye-opening insight and erudition focusing on how the idea of the frame, both as a compositional tool for organising pictorial space and as a conceptual device for delineating intellectual, social, psychic, and other kinds of boundaries, has been employed by the makers of art brut. Thévoz also examines literal examples of frames as objects that demarcate and contain the borders of works of art and become integral elements of their compositions.

In an interview with Raw Vision, Thévoz recalled that, as a teenager, he discovered the work of the Swiss artist Louis Soutter (1871-1942), who made paintings with fingers dipped in ink or paint. In Soutter’s works, Thévoz noted, “The frame — that is, the common rectangular format — felt like a form of incarceration.” Soutter’s human figures, he pointed out, “had to fold themselves into confined, rectangular-shaped pictorial space.”

Pathologie du cadre’s themes serve as the basis of L’Art Brut s’encadre (Art Brut Frames Itself), an intriguing exhibition Thévoz has curated for the Collection de l’Art Brut, where it will open on December 11, 2020, and remain on view through April 25, 2021. It features works by 40 artists, all of which have been culled from the Swiss museum’s extensive collection.

About the theme of the frame, Thévoz observed, “Each art brut creator grapples with the sacred rectangular border, which is something trained artists take for granted. For art brut makers, it represents a challenge but also, as a result, a jumping-off point for invention.”

Edward M. Gómez

 

PATHOLOGIE DU CADRE: QUAND L’ART BRUT S’ÉCLATE
Michel Thévoz; préface par Sarah Lombardi
Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 2020
ISBN: 978-2-7073-4639-1
18 euros

Les concepts du cadre et de l’encadrement : comment est-ce qu’ils fonctionnent dans les oeuvres des créateurs de l’art brut et comment est-ce que ces artistes transgressent les règles formelles imposées par cette technique compositionnelle si bien connue?

Dans son plus dernier livre, Pathologie du cadre: Quand l’Art Brut s’éclate, qui vient de paraître, l’historien de l’art suisse Michel Thévoz examine ces sujets et ces questions.

Thévoz était un ami et un collaborateur proche de Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), l’artiste moderne français influent qui, dans les années 1940, a été le premier à préciser qu’est-ce qu’étaient les caractéristiques typiques de l’art brut et qui a donné un nom à ce phénomène. Thévoz a été le premier directeur de la Collection de l’Art Brut, le musée fondé par Dubuffet dans la ville de Lausanne, Suisse, une nouvelle institution qui s’est inaugurée en 1976.

Pathologie du cadre: Quand l’Art Brut s’éclate est un tour de force révélateur, à la fois perspicace et érudit, qui se concentre sur la notion du cadre et sur son utilisation par les créateurs bruts, et comme outil compositionnel pour organiser l’espace pictural et comme technique pour marquer des frontières intellectuelles, sociales, ou psychiques, ainsi que d’autres types de frontières conceptuelles. Thévoz examine aussi des exemples des cadres qui marquent et contiennent plus littéralement les bordures de certaines oeuvres d’art et qui deviennent des éléments intégraux de leurs compositions.

Dans un entretien récent avec Raw Vision, Thévoz a rappelé sa découverte quand il était adolescent des oeuvres du créateur suisse Louis Soutter (1871-1942), qui créait ses peintures avec des doigts trempés dans l’encre ou dans la peinture. Dans ces créations, Thévoz a noté : « Le cadre — je veux dire le format rectangulaire usuel — y est ressenti comme une incarcération. » Il a noté que les figures humaines réprésentées par Soutter « doivent se plier à ce confinement orthogonal » .

Les thèmes centraux de Pathologie du cadre servent de base pour L’Art Brut s’encadre, une exposition intrigante que Thévoz a organisée pour la Collection de l’Art Brut dans le rôle de commissaire. Elle ouvrira ses portes le 11 décembre 2020 et durera jusqu’au 25 avril 2021. Cette exposition présentera les oeuvres de 40 créateurs et créatrices brut(e)s, toutes tirées de la collection permanente du musée lausannois.

Au sujet du cadre, Thévoz a observé : « Chaque auteur est aux prises avec cette sacrée bordure rectangulaire, qui va de soi pour les artistes patentés, mais qui pour eux [pour les créateurs bruts] représente un défi, donc un ressort d’invention. »

Edward M. Gómez

L’IMAGIER SINGULIER DE FRANÇOIS JAUVION

François Jauvion; preface by Michel Thévoz, introduction by Françoise Monnin, with artists’ entries by various contributors
Paris: lelivredart, in collaboration with Galerie Hervé Courtaigne, 2020
ISBN: 978-2-35532-356-0
50 euros

The history of the related fields of art brut and outsider art is still relatively young, but it is long and rich enough to have produced a canon of emblematic artists whose creations continue to attract passionate admirers.

Several years ago, François Jauvion, a French artist based near Paris who for many years made his living primarily as a model-maker, discovered art brut, outsider art, and what has become known in French as “art singulier”, or forms of creative expression that are too individualistic to be easily classified.

Now he has produced a ravishing, large-format book filled with his own original illustrations that pay homage to many of the most legendary figures in the history of art brut and outsider art.

Jauvion’s style recalls the underground comics of the American artist Robert Crumb, the work of the French, figuration libre contemporary artist Hervé Di Rosa, and even illuminated manuscripts. He spent four years drawing the more than 100 full-page colour pictures that fill this book.

In each of his artist portraits, Jauvion depicts his subject’s naked body, his or her characteristic garments, and the objects he or she uses every day. These items surround each of Jauvion’s subjects like constellations of curiosities. Detailed captions identify each numbered element in his compositions, which bring to mind page layouts in instruction manuals or books of paper dolls. 

In his homage drawings — of Adolf Wölfli, Scottie Wilson, Ataa Oko, and others — Jauvion renders some of their components in the respective styles of their different subjects.

Jauvion noted, “I like this slightly crazy artistic family, whose members have gone to creative extremes using every medium possible or imaginable.”

Edward M. Gómez

 

L’histoire des domaines connexes de l’art brut et de l’art outsider est encore relativement jeune mais elle est assez longue et riche pour avoir donné naissance à un panthéon d’artistes emblématiques dont les oeuvres continuent d’attirer des admirateurs passionnés.

Il y a quelques années, François Jauvion, un artiste français basé dans les environs de Paris qui avait travaillé pendant de nombreuses années comme modéliste, a découvert l’art brut, l’art outsider, et l’art singulier (c’est à dire des créations expressives trop individualistes pour être facilement classifiées).

Et maintenant il a réalisé un livre grand format plein de ses propres illustrations qui rendent hommage à beaucoup de créateurs les plus légendaires dans l’histoire de l’art brut et de l’art outsider.

Le style original de Jauvion rappelle les bandes dessinées de l’artiste américain underground Robert Crumb et l’oeuvre de l’artiste contemporain français Hervé Di Rosa (qui a été associé avec la tendance « Figuration Libre » ) ou même des manuscrits enluminés. Jauvion a passé quatre ans en élaborant plus de 100 images en couleur qui apparaissent à pleine page dans ce livre.

Dans chacun de ses portraits d’un créateur brut, outsider, ou singulier, Jauvion dépeint le corps nu de son sujet, ses vêtements caractéristiques, et les objets qu’il ou qu’elle utilise dans sa vie quotidienne. Tous ses articles entourent chacun des sujets choisis par Jauvion comme des constellations de curiosités. Des légendes détaillées identifient chaque élément numéroté dans chacune des ses compositions, qui rapellent les mises en page des modes d’emploi ou des livres de poupées en papier.

Dans ses hommages dessinés des créateurs comme Adolf Wölfli, Scottie Wilson, et Ataa Oko, entre autres, Jauvion rend certains éléments de ses compositions dans les styles respectifs de ses sujets.

Jauvion a noté : « J’aime bien cette famille artistique un peu folle, dont les membres sont allés aux extrèmes créatifs et ont utilisé toute matière possible ou imaginable. »

Edward M. Gómez

The distinctive images in coloured pencil on paper created by Frank Jones (1900-1969) have earned this African American self-taught artist, who grew up in poor, northeastern Texas, near the border with Oklahoma, a solid place in outsider art’s canon. So, too, has his life story, for Jones produced his remarkable drawings, only several hundred of which are known to exist today, during the latter years of his life, while he was an inmate at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, north of Houston.

Now, in New York, Shrine, a gallery at the southern end of Manhattan’s Lower East Side district, is showing nine emblematic Jones drawings in 114591, an exhibition that takes its title from Jones’s own prisoner number. (It remains on view through September 13, 2020.) The artist, who was illiterate, routinely marked his drawings with that number.

Jones’s drawings were discovered in the 1960s and first came to market at the now-defunct Atelier Chapman Kelley, which, in that era, was an important gallery in Dallas specialising in modern and contemporary art. At that time, the market for outsider art in the United States was still in its infancy.

Jones produced his drawings, depicting what he referred to as “devils’ houses”, while he was incarcerated. Using ordinary, blue-and-red accountants’ pencils and found pieces of paper, he drew cross-sectional views of wiry-looking structures inhabited by horned, winged, bird-like “haints” — demonic spirits whose cute looks belie their mischievous or even malevolent nature.

Jones claimed that he could see such spirits in the real, physical world around him, and that they were always poised to tempt the vulnerable and to cause harm. By capturing them and giving them visible form in his drawings, he believed that he could, in effect, disarm these troublesome forces.

Although Jones’s drawings regularly turn up at the Outsider Art Fair and in recent years have been shown at Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago and at Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York, in general, given their rarity, they are not often shown in quantity, allowing viewers to examine them in depth. Shrine’s current show includes nine drawings, including, notably, five that have emerged from a private source and that have not been shown publicly for many years. 

For collectors interested in such artworks’ provenances — the records of who has owned particular works of art over time — these drawings can be traced back to earlier gallery sources, their collective history evoking that of the development of the outsider art field in the U.S.

Of special interest in the drawings on view are Jones’s use of such colors as green, orange, and violet, in addition to his usual palette, and the irregular, nonrectilinear shapes of some of his “houses.”

As is often the case among the most compelling bodies of work in the related art brut and outsider art genres, the mysterious nature of Jones’s drawings are a large part of their irresistible allure.
 

Edward M. Gómez
Senior Editor
Raw Vision

Based in Dallas, Texas, where he has lived and worked for most of his life, Murray Smither, 83, a former art dealer and longtime collector of American folk art and outsider art who has specialised in the creations of self-taught artists from his home state and the broader American South region, is now bringing a large portion of his art holdings to market.

Dealers Julie Webb and Bruce Lee Webb of the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, a small town roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of central Dallas, have been working with Smither to divide paintings, sculptures, and other objects from his collection of hundreds of items into thematically cohesive groupings for presentation in “Thoughtful Collection,” an ongoing exhibition that is now in progress at their spacious venue. It will remain on view, with periodic rotations of displayed material, both at the gallery itself and online through the end of this year. 

As dealers and art collectors themselves, the Webbs have long been recognised in the United States for their discoveries and expertise in the outsider art field. The Webbs not only have known Smither for many years; over the decades, they told Raw Vision, they have also learned much from the older, experienced collector about the art history of their region as it has related to the emergence and development of local collectors’ and dealers’ activities focusing on the creations of self-taught artists.

Looking back over his long career, Smither recently told Raw Vision, “I enjoyed meeting self-taught artists, such as Frank Jones, Mildred Foster, or Floyd Clark. I liked these people, and they liked you liking their art. I wanted to start buying it — and I did.”

Smither was born and brought up in Hunstville, Texas, a city about 70 miles (112 kilometers) north of Houston. It is the home to Sam Houston State University (formerly Sam Houston State Teachers College, where Murray studied journalism) and the Texas State Penitentiary. That large prison houses the state’s execution chamber, the most active facility of its kind in the U.S. today. After finishing his undergraduate university studies in Huntsville, Smither moved to Dallas, where he worked for Texas Instruments (TI), the semiconductor-manufacturing company.

In Dallas, Smither’s interest in art blossomed. There, he took painting classes and eventually left TI to work in galleries, later establishing his own gallery in the early 1970s. 

Earlier, though, in the 1960s, at the prison in Hunstville, Smither judged an exhibition of art produced by its inmates and chose the Black, self-taught artist Frank Jones (1900-1969) as the winner of the contest. He became friendly with Jones, who made drawings with the stubs of blue-and-red accountants’ pencils on found scraps of paper. They portrayed what the incarcerated artist called “devils’ houses”— wiry-looking structures, shown in cross-section, featuring horned “haints”, or demonic spirits. 

Smither played a significant role in bringing Jones’s mysterious drawings to market, and in recent years, as their prices have risen, they have become highly prized by serious collectors of American outsider art.

Over the years, Smither also championed the work of the Rev. J. L. Hunter (1905-1999), Eddie Arning (1898-1993), and George W. White, Jr. (1903-1970), a Texas-born self-taught artist of African, Mexican, and Native American ancestry, who made paintings and mixed-media tableaux. In the 1980s, as his personal collection of art and objects made by self-taught artists, with a focus on those from Texas, expanded, Smither became an art appraiser and a consultant to corporate art collections. Through his contributions to exhibitions and advocacy on behalf of the artists whose creations had seized his attention, he played a key role in bringing to the public’s attention the unusual work of such artists as Jones, White, and many others.

Highlights of his personal collection, which is now being brought to market by the Webb Gallery, include biblical and local scenes by the Rev. Johnnie Swearingen (1909-1993), who is known as a “memory painter” of his native Texas; early portraits on paper by Ike Morgan (born 1958); painted-wood figurines by Hunter; and unusual paintings on paper or board by Valton Tyler (1944-2017), Lonnie Holley (born 1950), and Jimmie Lee Sudduth (1910-2007), along with rare works by Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900-1980) of New Orleans. 

Smither’s art holdings come to market at a time when emblematic works of historical significance and exemplary aesthetic quality by American outsider artists have become highly sought after by collectors and dealers alike.

Although he feels the time is now right to bring his collection to market, Smither did note, wistfully, “For me, all of these pieces are filled with memories.”

Edward M. Gómez
Senior Editor
Raw Vision