Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Going Outside

Unfiltered Visions, 20th Century Self-Taught American Art
NOMA, New Orleans

I have walked through many museum exhibitions of so-called outsider art without stopping. My resistance is usually visual: quilts, raw wood sculpture, and whirligigs, I just don't see much that draws me over. My response to art usually begins with physical attraction followed by a more intellectual engagement with a work's conceptual aspects. I rarely experience instant chemistry. in exhibitions of self-taught art. Without getting too far into into the problematic
Ike Morgan  Portrait of George Washington  (Sorry about the reflection!)
labels–outsider, self-taught, and folk art–the set up is that one is not expected to consider the work of self-taught artists within the canon of Western Art History or within the context of contemporary art.

Considering my tastes and habits, when I looked in on Unfiltered Visions I didn't expect I'd stay as long as I did. I hadn't known 
Henry Darger was there and his work is always worth seeing. Hurry It'll Explode Any Minute Now...is no exception and is the show's obvious superstar. But there was also this fantastic ink and pastel Portrait of George Washington by Ike Morgan. This drawing was a stunning mix of familiar and strange. The subject is of course irresistibly loaded. 

Holland Cotter once wrote, "...the question remains of where, in the concept of outsider art, the stress should fall: on outsider or on art?" Both artists have biographies that situate them outside of the art world and are stories worth looking into. But for me the work itself more than holds its own in any room. 

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