January 24th 2007

Winter has arrived in Manhattan this week, and even if the unseasonably balmy weather had not given over to the customary chill and flurries, the art forecast is seasonable - once again, it is time for the annual Outsider Art Fair, indoors, at the Puck Building in SoHo.


A.G. Rizzoli (1896-1982)
AGR/S-09, "Mr. & Mrs. Harold Healy Symbolically Sketched/First
Prize, First Anniversary,"
1936, Ink on Rag Paper, 36 x 25"
From the limited collection of available drawings by A.G. Rizzoli,
this 1936 architectural representation of neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Healy,
is from Rizzoli's symbolic portraits.
Courtesy The Ames Gallery


While the discourse that led to the naming of this classification of visual art was begun by Jean Dubuffet, who coined the term “Art Brut” (Raw Art) in reference specifically to work of artists confined to insane asylums, in the wearing of time “Outsider Art” has been used as an umbrella term covering works by artist who are self taught, folk art, art dealing with spiritual/visionary subject matter, and generally work that is created outside of or only marginally influenced by the mainstream world of artists, academia and galleries.


J. J. Cromer
There are many X’s Left, 2005
24 x 19, Mixed media
6977 JJC 1100c
Courtesy Grey Carter -Objects of Art

How this definition holds up under the conditions of the 21st Century remains to be seen. We are more and more a mainstream culture - changes in perception about the psychological and philosophical differences between people and the wide range of options to support the creativity and productivity people challenged by mental illness may mean that in the contemporary art world, defining a group of artists as “Outsider” may make about as much sense as talking about “outsider” stockbrokers, doctors or auto mechanics. Further, the quality and visibility of the
work means that the mainstream itself is not outside the influence of the outsider artist, and as artists echo and inspire one another across that imaginary line, distinctions blur.


Mors Centralis (Garden Spring) 2002
Mixed media/paper
35.75 x 26 in (90.8 x 66.0 cm)
Courtesy Cavin-Morris Gallery


Indeed, we are all outsider artists - who did not, as a child, pick up a medium and, without any training or philosophy, create a visual expression of a world that only we could see? That child is in each of us, and certainly, that spirit is still vital in every
grown-up artist working today. That said, I will leave it to you tofurther ponder the meaningof this special selection of art by crossing the threshold under the watchful eye of (how appropriate!) Puck himself, and entering into a world seen under a
different light.

The Outsider Art Fair
Presented by Sanford Smith at
The Puck Building
295 Lafayette St. at Houston
Preview Benefit for the American Folk Art Museum
Thursday, January 25th, 6:30 to 9 PM
Tickets 1-212-977-7170 ext.308
Fair Hours January 26th - 28th:
Friday Noon-8pm; Saturday 11am-8pm, Sunday 11am-7pm.
www.sanforsmith.com, info@sanfordsmith.com or
1-212-777-5218 for info.

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