The University of Chicago News Office
June 21, 2002 Press Contacts: Christine Carrino
(773) 702-0176
ccarrino@uchicago.edu

C.J. Lind
(773) 702-0766
cjlind@uchicago.edu
 

Outside In: Self-Taught Artists and Chicago

July 11 — September 15, 2002

The Smart Museum presents a special exhibition highlighting the work of outsider artists and their impact on the broader cultural life of Chicago.

Smart Museum brings leading authority John Beardsley to Chicago for a public lecture on the history of outsider art.

Chicago is an important center in the history of 20th-century American vernacular art, and has been home to an array of individuals variously defined as folk, popular, naïve, outsider and self-taught artists. These artists usually have no formal art training and work outside the mainstream art world of galleries, collectors, and museums. Emerging from disparate social, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, and often positioned at the margins of broader American society, some self-taught artists have been even further removed as social isolates or institutionalized psychiatric patients. In spite of such diversity, they are united in their art by the common desire to express themselves with profoundly personal, sometimes visionary, imagery of the world around them, or with idiosyncratic mappings of the inner terrain of private emotion and fantasy. Their highly inventive paintings, drawings, sculptures, and mixed-media objects are frequently unconstrained by the standards of prevailing mainstream art world styles and aesthetic formulations.

Drawing from the Smart Museum's permanent collection and select loans, Outside In: Self-Taught Artists and Chicago consists of nearly fifty works in a variety of media and formats by such self-taught Chicago artists as Henry Darger, Lee Godie, Bonnie Harris, Aldobrando Piacenza, Pauline Simon, and Joseph E. Yoakum. Included as well are select pieces by Jesse Howard and Martin Ramirez among others, who did not live in Chicago but were also influential and collected here.

Outside In will open on Thursday, July 11, with a public reception from 5 to 7:30 pm at the Smart Museum of Art. At 5:30 pm, a panel discussion on the continuing debate over the shifting definitions of outsider art and the impact of outsider art on mainstream art movements in Chicago and beyond will be held in the Smart Museum Reception Gallery. The panel will include Smart Museum Senior Curator Richard Born, outsider art specialist and writer Michael Bonesteel, Milwaukee Art Museum Director Russell Bowman, Intuit Gallery and Smart Museum board member Robert Donnelly, and Lisa Stone, Curator at the Roger Brown Study Collection of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Following artist Jean Dubuffet's seminal lecture Anticultural Positions at the Arts Club of Chicago in 1951, in which he advocated the so-called “primitive” arts of Africa, Oceania and other non-western cultures, art of the insane, and art of the untrained, the city's mainstream artists, art school faculty, collectors, and museums began to admire and collect the work of self-taught artists. By the mid-1960s, School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduates Roger Brown, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, and Karl Wirsum, among other so-called Chicago Imagists, were deeply involved with the art of untrained artists and that of psychotics and other social isolates. This interest in the unconventional expression of self-taught artists had grown through its inclusion in the curriculum of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and such influential teachers as Helen Blackshear and Whitney Halstead, who introduced outsider and art brut material into their slide lectures. Without regard for categories, they responded as fellow artists, collectors, and exhibition organizers to the work of self-taught artists, and greatly respected the works' powerful formal value and potential for direct communication.

Institutional reception of outsider art in Chicago grew in the 1970s. One-person exhibitons of Henry Darger, Aldobrando Piacenza, and Pauline Simon were mounted at the Hyde Park Art Center, the community art center that organized the first group exhibitions of the emerging Chicago Imagists in the late 1960s. In 1972, the Museum of Contemporary Art organized an exhibition of naïve, folk, and outsider art from the collections of the Chicago Imagist artists and H.C. Westermann. Presented in conjunction with a major group exhibition devoted to Chicago Imagism, it was among the first museum shows to address directly the impact of folk art and outsider traditions on this generation of postwar Chicago artists. The Renaissance Society's 1975 presentation of 20th-century American folk art from the pioneering collection of Herbert W. Hemphill, Jr. situated this material within a distinguished tradition of exhibitions devoted to avant-garde European and American contemporary art. This appreciation of the work of outsider artists and its impact on the broader cultural life of Chicago continues today among mainstream artists, collectors, historians, and museums.

The Smart Museum has been collecting work by self-taught artists for the past fifteen years, and many of the works included in Outside In are being shown publicly for the first time. The Smart’s outsider art holdings represent one among many aspects of its distinguished collection of post-war Chicago art. “We see these works as an important parallel to the Museum’s post-1945 art collection of works by mainstream Chicago artists,” remarked Richard Born, Senior Curator at the Smart and curator of Outside In. “In a city where vernacular and popular mass-media culture has often intersected with fine-arts traditions, the Smart Museum's outsider art collection forms a valuable contribution to the greater art history of 20th-century Chicago.”

Lecture: John Beardsley
On the closing day of the exhibition, September 15, 2002, John Beardsley, a leading authority on outsider and visionary art will present a free public lecture at 2 pm. A Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Design School, Beardsley is the author of Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists (1995). He has also curated several exhibitions of visionary and outsider art including Black Folk Art in America (Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1982), and Eye of the World: Miniature and Microcosm in the Art of the Self-Taught (Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, 2002). In his lecture titled “A Geneology of Outsider Art,” Beardsley will discuss the diverse origins and ever-evolving definitions of outsider art in both Europe and the United States. A reception and tour of the exhibition led by Senior Curator Richard Born will follow. This event is co-sponsored by Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art.

MUSEUM INFORMATION:
The Smart Museum of Art is located on the campus of the University of Chicago.

Smart Museum of Art Hours: 10 am - 4 pm Tue - Fri
University of Chicago 11 am - 5 pm Sat, Sun
5550 South Greenwood Ave. Café and Museum Shop open daily
Chicago, IL 60637 Galleries closed Monday
773.702.0200 Admission is free
http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu

Outside In: Self-Taught Artists and Chicago is presented in the Richard and Mary L. Gray Special Exhibition Gallery. The exhibition and related programs are supported by the Donnelley Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Smart Family Foundation; Nuveen Investments; the Chicago Community Trust; and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; the Visiting Committee on the Visual Arts, University of Chicago; and Friends of the Smart Museum.

Related EventsUnless otherwise noted, all events are held at the Smart Museum and are free and open to the public.

Opening Reception and Panel Discussion
Thursday, July 11, 5 - 7:30 pm

At 5:30 pm, join Smart Museum Senior Curator Richard Born, outsider art specialist and writer Michael Bonesteel, Milwaukee Art Museum Director Russell Bowman, Intuit Gallery and Smart Museum board member Robert Donnelley, and Lisa Stone, Curator at the Roger Brown Study Collection of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, for a panel discussion. The panel will discuss the ongoing debate over changing definitions of outsider art; the tradition of Chicago-based outsider artists; and the impact of outsider art on the mainstream art world of Chicago and beyond. A reception will follow. Museum members are invited to make dinner reservations at the University's exclusive Quadrangle Club. Please call 773.702.2368 for reservations and membership information.

Four-Week Course
Fridays, July 12 and 26, August 2 and 9, 10 am - Noon

Using the exhibition as a point of departure, this course will look at the work of Chicago outsider artists and their relationship to mainstream art in the city. The class will explore the complex boundaries that separate (or don't) the self-taught and the school-trained. Taught by Smart Museum Education Director Jackie Terrassa. Co-sponsored by the Flossmoor and Hyde Park Jewish Community Centers. Space is limited and advance enrollment is required. Registration is $80. Please contact Eileen Uhlmann at the Flossmoor JCC at 708.799.7673 to register.

Family Day
Sunday, July 14, 1 - 4 pm

Join us for a free afternoon of fun and art! At 2 pm enjoy a master performance of stories and music by jazz artist Ameen Muhammad. Make marvelous birdhouses and magical walking sticks, draw, and take a tour of Outside In. All ages welcome.

Outsider Art Collections Tour
Saturday, July 20, 1 - 5:30 pm

Join us for a special day trip to three Chicago outsider art collections. The tour will begin at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art with an introduction by Executive Director Jeff Cory and Associate Director Martha Watterson. A tour of the private collection of outsider art dealer Carl Hammer and of the Roger Brown Study Collection will follow. Lisa Stone, Curator of the Study Collection, will present a brief slide presentation discussing Roger Brown's fascination with the environments of outsider artists based on the sites Brown visited and documented. This event is open only to Smart Museum members and contributors. Transportation, tours, and a cocktail reception are included. Space is limited, reservations and pre-payment are required. Please call 773.702.2368 for reservations and membership information.

Public Exhibition Tours
Sundays, July 21 and August 11, 1:30 pm

Meet in the Smart Museum reception gallery for tours of the exhibition, led by University of Chicago student docents.

Lunchtime Exhibition Tour
Thursday, July 25, 12:10 - 12:40 pm

Take a break from your usual lunch routine and join Education Coordinator Sara Skelly for a tour of the exhibition. Bring a lunch or buy one at the museum café.

Lecture: “A Genealogy of Outsider Art”
Sunday, September 15, 2 pm

Cochrane-Woods Art Center, rm. 157
5540 S. Greenwood Avenue

John Beardsley, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Design School, is a leading authority on outsider and visionary art. Beardsley is the author of Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists (1995) and a curator of several exhibitions of visionary and outsider art including Black Folk Art in America (Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1982), and Eye of the World: Miniature and Microcosm in the Art of the Self-Taught (Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, 2002). Beardsley will discuss the diverse origins and ever-evolving definitions of outsider art in both Europe and the United States. A reception and tour of the exhibition led by Senior Curator Richard Born will follow.
Co-sponsored by Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art.

 

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Last modified at 09:41 AM CST on Monday, June 24, 2002.

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