Costumes by Vahad Poladian. Photo by Hiroko Masuike, The New York Times
Some gems from Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond by John Maizels. Regular readers of this blog will know that I like a bit of O/outsider attitude.
“What country doesn’t have its small sector of cultural art, its brigade of career intellectuals? It’s obligatory. From one capital to another they perfectly ape one another, practising an artificial, esperanto art, which is indefatigably recopied everywhere. But can we really call this art? Does it have anything to do with art?” Jean Dubuffet in L’Art brut préferé aux arts culturels, 1946.
This was in 1946 and it’s still just as true seventy years later. Very, very depressing. This tale of masterful gallery fucking-uppery is much more comforting:
“Scottie Wilson (1888-1972)… had been a junk dealer, making a living by salvaging what he could from the bits and pieces that fell into his hands. To this end he collected the old nibs from gold fountain pens. One day he found in his possession a particuarly fine pen, large and free-flowing, so good to handle that he was somehow led to use it playfully to draw outlines and forms…
Signed simply ‘Scottie’, the drawings became a source of livelihood for Wilson, who held his own exhibitions in music halls and pier booths around Britain. He was even taken up by a London gallery, Gimpel Fils, who were forced to rescind their agreement when he set up his own stall outside the gallery, selling his work for a fraction of the price of those exhibited within.”
The American artist who made this prizewinning work is 37 years old (nearly too old to be an “emerging artist”!) and he’s based in Keithville, Louisiana. He has developed a unique canvas-based practice in which he uses his tongue to apply pigment with a methodical understanding of seriality that leads to a rich columnar vocabulary of mark-making. His name is Brent and he looks like this:
Brent recently won first prize in the Chimpanzee Art Competition run by the Humane Society of the United States and voted for by the public. The entrants have all formerly been used for medical research, kept in unsuitable zoos, or rescued from abusive “acting” or “performing” situations. They now live out their retirements in various sanctuaries, where some of them paint better than a number of Debut Contemporary’s clients. Their paintings will soon be auctioned on eBay to raise money for charity. The chimp paintings, I mean, not paintings by Debut Contemporary’s clients. No sane person wants to buy their paintings.
Great “serious artist” photo posing, Brent. Intense, grizzled, macho, very Picasso.
Cheetah won second prize. For his portrait he decided to go for more of a jobbing painter crazy hair and covered in paint bohemian look. It seems like Cheetah’s been trying out Brent’s mouth-painting technique. Either that or he idolises Van Gogh so much that he decided to go bonkers and eat paint like his hero. I advise keeping Cheetah away from razors to prevent the occurence of some hideous mashup of Lust for Life and Murders in the Rue Morgue.
My report for a-n about last weekend’s Supernormal Festival of art and music. In the article I discuss in particular the effect of zero budgets or personal artist subsidies on the types of work artists get to make and that audiences get to see. For some context, as well as reporting for the magazine I was also taking part in one of the daft, ramshackle art events that I mention: my friend Charlie Murphy’s Pantomime Ponies. Yes, I was a pony.