Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Out of Lines

To celebrate the 25th birthday of the review Raw Vision based in London, La Halle Saint Pierre in Montmartre has assembled the works of eighty-one international "outsiders". From Europe, the United States, India, Japan or Africa, each artist is represented by several pieces for a total of more than four hundred works.
Without theme or chronology, the exhibition is an exuberant show of paintings, sculptures of artists known by a small circle of amateurs of Art Brut. One can discover John Pass with his expressionistic fields of skulls under tormented skies called Resurrection or Collections of Souls, Vonn Strőpp inspired paintings, so busy, with pictures born from pictures, stories from stories, building a world of science-fiction like Embargo, 1985, a war-like scene populated with female warriors, half female, half birds. The elaborate techniques and subjects contrast with the compulsive works from Johann Korec  whose primitive paintings represent coupling in different poses accompanied by an indecipherable text in German below. Madge Gill's (1882-1961) obsessional representations of a female (most likely a self-portrait) with a hat in black clothes caught in colored cobweb-like, suffocating architectures, is followed by the naive, dreamlike works from Pavel Leonov (1920-2011)... We learn that Korec was a shepherd until he reached twenty years of age when he was placed in a psychiatric asylum for the rest of his life, we can read about the tragic life of Madge Gill as each artist is presented with a short biography. Many were diagnosed with severe mental illnesses and had troubled lives. Some started to paint at a young age, others like Scottie Wilson at age 40 after a mental breakdown. The techniques are varied but have in common an obsessive pattern and the repetitive gestures create a personal style easily recognizable for each artist. Inspiration is often related to visions engendering creativity. Augustin Lesage (1876-1954) heard a voice which told him to paint and so he did, delicate lace-like works filled with spirituality. Johann Garber (1947-) represented on the canvas fantasies, hallucinations with saturated ink drawings while August Walla (1936-2001) thought his paintings had the power to protect him.
Some artists are very prolific, like Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930) who left an esoteric work composed of 25000 pages of graphics drawn with colored pencils, collages, literary and musical compositions (one of his work was acquired by André Breton), or Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern (1892-1982) invited by the surrealists to participate in their international exhibition. Media can also surprise: Alaize Corbaz, sickly in love with emperor Guillaume II, interned in a psychiatric hospital, would use the juice of pressed petal flowers, toothpaste others use wrapping paper, fabrics, computers like Danczyszak or matches like Pradeep Kumar.
On the second floor an area is dedicated to American Outsiders and it is like being home: Bill TraylorRoy Ferdinand ( 1959-20004) with his violent exotic scenes from New Orleans, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Herbert Singleton from Algiers, Mose Tolliver (1920-2006), Richard Burnside and more.
Such an ambitious exhibition is appropriate to celebrate the magazine which like la Halle Saint Pierre promotes Outsider Art and ignoring borders connects artists and audience.

No photographs were allowed
photographs by the author

Banner at la Halle Saint Pierre
Bill Traylor

No comments: