From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
Museums, galleries and critics across the country are showcasing works by outsider artists, pulling the movement out of obscurity and into the mainstream.
Outsider art is art created by people without formal training who don’t consider themselves professionals and who operate outside the realm of the art world establishment.
It encompasses work by the mentally ill or the developmentally disabled and is often inspired by an artist’s own fantasy world or personal memories, but also by pop culture, religion and local subcultures. Outsider artists often use unconventional materials and found objects.
Now in its 21st year, the most recent annual “Outsider Art Fair” in New York received an “unprecedented amount of press coverage” and record-breaking attendance. The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened its “Great and Mighty Things” exhibit of outsider art earlier this month.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s recent acquisition of works by Mingering Mike should dispel any doubts that outsider art has found a place in the contemporary art historical canon. A recent Washington Post article details how the museum came to acquire the works, and gives as much information as possible on the person behind the Mingering Mike moniker.
Outsider art also features prominently in many spring museum exhibits and gallery openings here in DC.
“Mumbo Sauce,” curated by Lauren Gentile of Contemporary Wing and Bethesda native Roger Gastman, opens April 5 at an as yet undisclosed location. Gastman also curated the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s popular “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s” exhibit that features graffiti art by Cool “Disco” Dan, among others, posters, and ephemera from the 1980s DC musical sub-cultures. “Mumbo Sauce,” created “in response to” the Corcoran exhibit, includes pieces by Mingering Mike, Cool “Disco” Dan, BORF and others.
Art Enables, a non-profit that supports local artists with disabilities and that works to foster a wider appreciation of contemporary folk art, opened the “Glitterbomb” exhibit in its Off-Rhode Gallery on March 3. (Click here to view a slideshow of photos works from “Glitterbomb” on the Huffington Post.) All of the works in the exhibit come from Art Enable board member Paul Yandura’s personal collection. Programming for the exhibit includes a Gliteratti Party on Saturday, March 23, and a Collector’s Talk with Yandura on Wednesday, March 27.
The English-language term outsider art can be traced back to the concept of l’art brut. Jean Dubufett, one of three artists featured in “Angels, Demons, and Savages” at The Phillips Collection, was the first to use the term art brut and amassed a large collection of art brut works during his lifetime. A talk at The Phillips on March 28 will explore Dubuffet’s relation to art brut and its influence on his work.
- “Pump Me Up” at Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th Street NW, runs through April 7.
- “Glitterbomb” at Off-Rhode Gallery, 2204 Rhode Island Avenue NE, runs through March 29.
- “Mumbo Sauce” opens April 5 at an as yet undisclosed location.