‘This year’s Outsider Art Fair will feature 64 exhibitors, the greatest number in our 24-year history,’ says the fair’s director, Rebecca Hoffman. Twenty-four first-time exhibitors will be showing at the fair’s new venue, the Metropolitan Pavilion, in 2016, and here, Hoffman identifies the artists she’s particularly excited to present.
Gil Batle, Jamestown, 2015. Carved ostrich egg shell, 6.5 x 5 x 5 in.
‘Artists making their OAF debut include Gil Batle at Ricco Maresca, who has received critical acclaim for his carved ostrich-egg shells,’ comments Hoffman. Now aged 53, the San Francisco-born artist served nearly 25 years in five California prisons for fraud and forgery. When he was given an ostrich egg shortly after his release, Batle says a ‘proverbial lightbulb went off’; using a dental drill, he began to carve three-dimensional narratives into the surfaces of shells, creating painstakingly-detailed depictions of gang violence, court hearings, riots and unsettling dreams.
Alessandra Michelangelo, Strada stele Rossa, 1999-2009. Acrylic on paper. 100.8 x 72 cm
Eiichi Shibata, Soap: Bubbles, whirls, and streams, 2015. Ink on canvas. 16 1/8 x 12 1/2 in
Other newcomers highlighted by Hoffman include Italian artist Alessandra Michelangelo, presented by artist and curator Chris Byrne, and Eiichi Shibata, an autistic artist whose abstract drawings are inspired by soap and bubbles.
Outsider Art’s ‘Masters’
Henry Darger, At Jennie Richee, The truck got troublesome on a plank bridge. 19 x 48 inches
AUCTION PREVIEWOutsider Art: The hot listRead more
‘The fair is also set to include top examples of masters in the field, such as Henry Darger, who is presented at both Carl Hammer and Andrew Edlin,’ says Hoffman. One of the few Outsider Artists to have achieved fame in mainstream culture, Darger is often viewed as the quintessential American Outsider, having produced an extensive body of work which he kept hidden during his lifetime. After losing both parents while still a child in the early 1900s, Chicago-born Darger spent his life working in a hospital and was notoriously reclusive — his art and writing was only discovered shortly before his death by his landlord.
James Castle, Untitled (Landscape with totem). Soot and spit on found paper. 3 7/8 x 7 7/8 inches
‘Other established outsider artists are Bill Traylor at Hirschl & Adler and James Castle at Fleisher/Ollman. Born deaf in rural Idaho in 1899, Castle made drawings and collages that depicted his life, including empty landscapes and farm scenes, using a sharp stick dipped in a mix of soot and his own saliva.
Adolf Wölfli, Blumen, circa 1928. Coloured pencil on paper. 18.75 x 12 inches (47.6 x 30.5 cm)
Among the most well known of the ‘Outsiders’ on display is Adolf Wölfi, one of the first artists to be associated with the Art Brut label. Born in Switzerland in 1864, Wölfi was orphaned at the age of 10. Later diagnosed with psychosis, in 1895 he was committed to the Waldau Clinic in Bern, where he spent the rest of his adult life. Psychiatrist Dr Walter Morgenthaler took an interest in his drawings and collages, and published the study that first brought Wölfli to the attention of the art world.
Carlos Zinelli, Untitled, 1966/67. 70 x 50 in. Tempera on paper
Other renowned outsiders Hoffman looks forward to presenting this year include Carlo Zinelli, the Italian artist born in 1916, who left a legacy of 3,000 works — each a cryptic sequence of boldly-coloured animals, figures and architectural structures.
James Edward Deeds Jr. [Electric Pencil], Home Sweet Home / Anchor [261/262], 1908-1987. Crayon on ledger paper. 9 1/4 x 8 3/8 in
At Hirschl & Adler, James Edward Deeds Jr.’s Home Sweet Home displays the innocence that became typical of his works: delicately executed crayon and pencil drawings that return to motifs including vehicles, animals, people, buildings and formal gardens.
The State Hospital paper on which he worked is the only indication of a less than tranquil life. Born into a family of Missouri farmers in 1908, Deeds was described as well-meaning though increasingly troubled in his youth, his difficulty in adjusting socially exacerbated by a complex relationship with a disciplinarian father. After a suicide attempt at the age of 17, he was committed to Nevada’s sprawling mental hospital, where he spent the rest of his life.
Dan Miller, Untitled, 2015. Acrylic and ink on paper. 42 x 58 inches
Andrew Hostick, Trevor Bryan Still Life, 2013. Colored pencil on mat board. 15.38 x 12.25 in (39.07 x 31.12 cm)
Hoffman’s final selections include Dan Miller’s Untitled (2015), a painting that sees the artist continue his practice of superimposing layers of writing to the point of illegibility — the resulting image echoing the works of artists such as Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly. At Morgan Lehman, Andrew Hostick’s coloured pencil works appropriate imagery from advertisements in art magazines, building up layers of colour to form a reflective sheen.
New and unseen
Unknown artist, Tantric Design, circa 1995
‘This year’s fair is also the opportunity for visitors to see never-before-exhibited collections in new categories, such as the Indian Folk Drawings — some dating back to the 18th century — exhibited at Magic Markings,’ says Hoffman.
‘For the first time in the fair’s history, we have curated a memorial exhibition: Ionel Talpazan, who passed away last September, was legendary for his depictions of UFOs,’ she adds. ‘And we will also be presenting Babel, a curated booth of imaginary towers culled from an open call to artists, architects and designers worldwide.’
For more features, interviews and videos, visit Christie’s Daily