Art Brut, Raw Art, The Outsiders, The Visionaries
You hear the word Art Brut, what sorts of images does that word bring you your mind? For most raw or rough images come to mind and that’s it, raw art or art created outside the boundaries, hence the name, Outsider Art. Art Brut, translated from French means "raw art"; 'Raw' in that it has not been through the cooking process, those works uncooked by cultural and artistic influences. Art Brut, Outsider art or any of the terms used above aren’t limited to just painting. The artists that work within this genre may work in many mediums, drawing, painting, sculpture, fabric, some may create dolls or toys and soil whereby they create large visionary gardens, and others express themselves in writings laid out in a primitive format.
This type of creative expression began in the insane asylums in the 1920s. A patient in a Swiss asylum named Adolf Wolfli produced thousands of works in his cell that were eventually collected by his doctor, Dr. Morganthaler. As Wolfli worked he created intricate drawings of geometric patterns, combined with writing, primitive figures, and musical notation. Wolfli imagined his drawings to be “sound pieces” or “musical compositions.” These brightly colored detailed drawings from a person with no artistic training make us question, what is the connection between art, creativity, and madness?
|Art of Adolf Wolfli|
|Some Books from the collection about Adolf Wolfli|
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French artist Jean Dubuffet was an artist that created Art Brut. He was the artist who came up with the phrase Art Brut after being influenced by the works of Wolfi and Hans Prinzhorn’s book, Artistry of the Mentally Ill. Dubuffet saw art works by psychiatric patients, prisoners, and children to be work that rebelled against traditional standards of beauty and to be more human than those that hung in museums and galleries. Dubuffet worked in many times in blacks, blues, reds, and whites, with the paint thickened with sand and tar.
His works were created with thick heavy strokes that appear to be done by an untrained artist. Like many Outsider artists working today, his work appears childlike and primitive. As with Wolfli, Dubuffet’s work conveys a sense of intense energy and movement.
|Art of Jean Dubuffet|
|Some books from the collection about Jean Dubuffet|
As these Art Brut artists rejected established modern values and created their own visual language; almost anything can and does happen in their work. As they work on a piece they allow for what they call chance operations to happen in their work, they have no set plan and whatever happens will happen. Sometimes but rarely do these artists care about conveying a political, historical, or social message. The messages they convey are allegorical or mythic.
Within Art Brut are different genres depending on how the artist. Raw Vision, a leading magazine in Outsider and Brut came up with a vocabulary to help understand some of the genres; Art Brut, Folk Art and Contemporary Folk Art, Neuve Invention, Outsider Art, Art Singulier and Marginal Art, Naïve Art, Visionary and Intuitive Art, and Visionary Environments. All of the artists who work within these genres have one thing in common; they are creating their own vision, visual language and visual content.
A well known Outsider artist is Henry Darger. Darger was another creator of visions who was institutionalized and considered psychotic. He may have suffered from Tourette Syndrome as he emitted strange noises. Darger himself felt that much of his problem was being able to see through adult lies.
After serving in the army for a short time he returned to Chicago in 1930. at 851 W. Webster Avenue, in the Lincoln Park section and become a recluse. It was here he began creating his art. It was in massive books that he created become famous for his posthumously-discovered 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story. The length of the title reflects the length of the book.
|Art of Henry Darger|
This work 15,145 pages, bound in 15 volumes. It is densely typed with several hundred illustrations, with scroll-like watercolor paintings that he got from magazines and coloring books. He created this work over six decades and most of the book. It follows the adventures of the daughters of Robert Vivian, seven princesses of the Christian nation of Abbieannia who assist a daring rebellion against the evil regime of child slavery imposed by John Manley and the Glandelinians. Children take up arms in their own defense and are often slain in battle or viciously tortured by the Glandelinian overlords. The elaborate mythology includes the setting of a large planet, around which Earth orbits as a moon (where most people are Christian and mostly Catholic), and a species called the "Blengigomeneans" (or Blengins for short), gigantic winged beings with curved horns who occasionally take human or part-human form, even disguising themselves as children. wiki). He also went on to create another work titled, Crazy House: Further Adventures in Chicago that contains over 10,000 handwritten pages.
Darger’s work was discovered by his landlords upon his death on in 1973. Darger's work has become one of the most celebrated examples of outsider art. He is represented in many permanent collections throughout the world. Darger’s works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the American Folk Art Museum in New York, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Collection de l'art brut, the Walker Art Center, the the National Museum of American Art, High Museum of Art, and the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Artin Villeneuve d'Ascq.
|Some books from the collection about Henry Darger|
There are so many Outsider artists it is difficult to pick the ones to write about. The artists mentioned above, Wolfli, Dubuffet, and Darger worked mostly with pencils or paint on paper but there are those Outsiders who create surreal environments. These visionary environments are usually large scale including gardens, sculpture, and buildings. Many times these environments are created due to the artist wanting to create a or define a personal space for themselves or to tell a story about their life.
So many artists that have created visionary spaces that it is hard to focus on just a few. In Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is dedicated to preserving these colorful, sublime, and fantastic spaces. The Center dedicates themselves to preserving these creations on their original sites.
Two artists who create very different yet personal environments are Nek Chand and David Butler. The worlds they create are indeed personal with a sense of their personal histories.
Nek Chand was born in India in 1924. His most famous creation is the Rock Garden of Chandigarh, an eighteen acre sculpture garden in the city of Chandigarh, India.
During the Indian partitionof 1947 his family fled everything behind. They landed in Punjab, Chandigarh, a city being redesigned as a modern utopia by architectLe Corbusier. It was here Chand found work and began building his own vision of utopia. He began collecting rocks and other materials from construction sites around the city and created his divine kingdom of Sukrani. Chand’s work was illegal, but he was able to hide it for eighteen years before it was discovered by the authorities in 1975. By this time, it had grown into a 12 acre complex full of gardens and structures, interlinked courtyards, each filled with hundreds of sculptures of colorful dancers, musicians, and animals. In keeping with Hindu ideology, Nek Chand believes everything in life is regenerative. He views the Rock garden not as an offering to, “God but as a gift from God. Every rock has a life, Every rock is a being.” (from Sublime Spaces, see book below, p.332).
|Art of Nek Chand|
|Some books from the collection about Nek Chand|
David Butler (1898-1997) created his own vision of utopia. His vision was an incredible garden of color, form, and motion outside his home in Patterson, Louisiana. Butler dreamed extraordinary dreams of images from his daily life but also dreams of mythological creatures and turned these dreams into a place that he felt safe.
While growing up Butler worked in sugarcane fields, his free time was devoted to drawing what he saw everyday and also the carving objects. Although slavery had passed racial intolerance had not and many African Americans sought safety in prayer and folk practices. Butler sought his solace in African and Christian beliefs which he translated into his sculptures and garden.
Butler could neither read or write turned to making colorful gardens full of flowers and sculptures. Many of his creations were made of metal that helped earn him the name Tin Man. While working Butler was always in search of how to create his nightly visions. His metal works eventually include wood, wire, chalk, and house paint. His tools were a meat cleaver, hammer, and axe head. Many of the animals in his vast garden menagerie drew from biblical sources. Eventually his garden turned into dream-like kinetic creations of animals that eventually broadened into three dimensional creations.
Butler had a 1982 exhibition entitled, "Black Folk Art America, 1930-1980" at the Corcoran Gallery, In Washington, D.C. A year later an illness caused him to move and take remove all the work in his yard.
|Art of David Butler|
Unfortunatley there are not any books published about David Butler and his work. The book listed below contains a chapter about him with some good representations of his work and other outsider artists.
Some other books in the collection about Art Brut and Outsider Art
The Arts Division subscribes to Raw Vision magazine, the authoritative source for Outsider and Visionary Art. Division magazines do not circulate.