Friday, January 30, 2015

At 'Outsider Art Fair,' Variety Galore, Enticements Many and Sensuality Aplenty

Painted stones by Daniel Bernardinelli. At the Galerie Bourbon-Lally in Pitionville, Haiti. Photos by Joel Simpson.


seems that the unifying characteristic of these artists is that they follow their own private inspiration, mostly undirected by pedagogy, tradition and the call of galleries looking to sell to sophisticated (or corporate) tastes.

These are astonishing examples of self-taught art under the general rubric of “outsider art.”

If you like gallery-hopping and want to view art that fascinates you, moves you – even teaches you something about connections in the world you might not have noticed ... Then take yourself to the "Outsider Art Fair" this weekend (through Sunday, 1 Feb.) at Center 548 in the Chelsea section of New York City.

Plan to spend at least two hours in this milieu, especially if you engage with gallery personnel who are more than happy to discuss the artists and their often bizarre stories. Fifty galleries and museums are represented.

The "Outsider Art Fair" includes such categories as folk, visionary, na├»ve, intuitive and art brut (“raw art”). Throughout this report, note observations of a few works that caught my eye.

This 1975 boxed assemblage by Mike Goodlett is titled Dollhouse Asylum. It extends the concept of the dollhouse
into obvious but heretofore unchartered territory. At Institute 193, a gallery based in Lexington, Ken.

Ironically, outsider art, owing to its vitality and originality, has become so sought after in the past 30 years that many galleries specialize in it. This genre has developed a devoted following and specialized periodicals, including the UK-based Raw Vision, which has a booth at the show. ( The world's other "Outsider Art Fair," in Paris, is scheduled for October.

In possibly a gallery-based trend, works of a religious nature are largely absent from this year's show.

Still, the range of work in this iteration of the "Outsider Art Fair" is vast. The delights are many, and there is a strong erotic component to much of it.

Visit to learn more about the "Outsider Art Fair."

Artist John Brill, a school bus driver by trade, at his mostly photographic installation (with three fish bowls). His dreamy, evocative, archaic-looking photographs contrast with his blue-collar self-presentation and friendly manner. Exactly the kind of combination one expects to find at the "Outsider Art Fair." At the Kent Fine Art gallery in New York City.

This untitled painting by Carlo Zinelli comes closer to what most think of as outsider art: a vision with naively drawn figures that eschews perspective, includes text and has a personal religious theme. It is at New York City’s Cavin-Morris Gallery, one of the city's major outsider art galleries.

One of a series of exhibitionistic watercolors, left, from 1937–45 discovered recently in Budapest and sent to New Haven, Conn. gallery owner, Fred Giampietro. The artist is unknown, but this is the kind of work that typically turns up at the "Outsider Art Fair": “closet” art discovered after the death of the artist whose identity may be unknown. At right, 5-inch painted metal and clay androgynous figure by Frederick Hastings. It was discovered in a drawer by his daughter after his death. Presumably, it was created some time during the 1980s. Recently discovered, this is the first time this work has been publicly shown. At New York City's American Primitive Gallery.

This large, over-the-top sexual dance fantasy painting, Okokuroko Brass Band, is by Ghanaian artist Isaac Azay. The painting is at least 5-feet long, though its dimensions are not given. It is at the Los Angeles-based Ernie Wolfe Gallery. Dressed as a true Californian in print short-sleeved shirt and shorts, the genial Ernie Wolfe knows a lot about the "Kenyan movie poster tradition." He has several examples in his booth, where the art oscillates between stereotypical and caricature.

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