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Cover, Martin Ramirez, Untitled, 1960-63 Gouache and graphite on pieced paper, 24½ x 14 ž in, Ricco Maresca Gallery


Sept. 11, 2015 - Jan. 3, 2016 Curated by Jan Petry

756 N Milwaukee Avenue art.org

Caroline Demangel, Untitled, 2014 Mixed media on paper, 20 x 16Âź in, Cavin-Morris Gallery


line in the sand, a scratch on rock, a mark on parchment— drawing is the most basic of artistic expression, be it primitive or refined. Selftaught artists, working independently of theart world canon for generations, have visualized their world with pencil, pen and brush. Curating dRAW has been a joy. It involved a lot of looking. There are many artists, outsiders and self-taught, that are not represented, and you might ask why? The very title of the exhibit was my guide. And then there is that often repeated “I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it” caveat. And I saw it. No image is more “raw” than a Henry Darger strangulation, and the image itself was reason for some included works, but important to me also was the sense of urgency and expression in the very act of mark making. These drawings are the visual voice of the artist. They shout, they sing, they cry out. They hum and rattle, scream and drum. A chorus of voices emanates from the layered parchments of Genevieve Seille. Dan Miller, J.B. Murray and Tarik Echols have a language of their own, insistent and mysterious. The remarkable parallel “slave chase” drawings of Bill Traylor and Charley Kinney moan together side by side, recording an event unspeakable. And Roy Ferdinand just tells it like it is. M’onma, Nick Blinko and Loic Lucas leave us amazed by the beauty and technical skill of their sure line. Abstract works by Hiroyuki Doi, Eiichi Shibata and Matthew Kirk sing their own song. And perhaps Susan Te Kahurangi King even giggled. dRAW focuses on important works of artists from generations past: Martín Ramírez, Adolph Wolfli, Henry Darger and Friedrich Schoder-Sonnentstern and, more expansively, on a newgeneration of self-taught artists. Artists such as Chris Hipkiss, Lubos Plny, George Widenor, Melvin Way, Daniel Martin Diaz and Gunther Schutzenhofer, whose work remains authentic and visionary while representative of contemporary times. One of the last drawings that I saw and chose, an untitled figure by Caroline Demangel, seems to capture the tone of dRAW as I envisioned the exhibit. A singular voice urgently visualized. Jan Petry Curator, Exhibits Chair Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

Anthony Dominguez, The Alchemist, 1995 White Out on black cloth, 30 x 65 in, American Primitive Gallery

Henry Darger, Untitled (massacre), c. 1940-1950 Watercolor and pencil on paper, 19 x 24 in, Robert A. Roth Collection, Photo: Wm. H. Bengtson

Direct expressions from a parallel art universe By Tom Patterson


rawing is the most direct and economical of art mediums. Almost any implement or material can be used to draw, and available drawing surfaces are everywhere. This easy access historically made drawing the most convenient form of visual expression in institutions designed to house psychologically disturbed, socially ill-adapted individuals. It was almost exclusively among such populations that the initial discoveries were made in the field of Art Brut, European artist Jean Dubuffet’s term roughly translatable as “raw art.” Much, if not most, of the art made by compulsively creative patients in these settings has been in the form of drawings, as evidenced by the seminal early publications of European psychiatrists Walter Morgenthaler and Hans Prinzhorn.

In Switzerland, Morgenthaler studied the drawings of his patient Adolf Wölfli for his book, A Psychiatric Patient as Artist, published in 1921. In Artistry of the Mentally Ill, which appeared the following year, Prinzhorn analyzed an extensive collection of art by inmates at the University Hospital Heidelberg. Of more than 200 works reproduced in its pages, the vast majority are drawings. Just as in mainstream art history, then, drawing occupies a foundational position in the unruly parallel art uni-

verse that Morgenthaler, Prinzhorn and Dubuffet revealed with their writings and source collections. As the audience for this non-official art has expanded to global proportions since the mid-20th century, Englishlanguage alternatives to Dubuffet’s brut have proliferated to include “selftaught,” “vernacular,” “contemporary folk” and “outsider,” among others. The field’s parameters have likewise expanded to encompass a range of nonacademic visual expression, without necessary reference to factors like its

Opposite: Adolf Wolfli, Untitled, Mixed media on paper, 35 x 29 in, Collection of Mike and Cindy Noland

social context or the mental-health status of the artists. Intuit’s dRAW, curated by longtime Intuit exhibitions committee chair Jan Petry, provides a wideranging overview of the field and its evolution over the last 100 years through a substantial group of drawings brought together from varied sources. It includes strong, characteristic works by some of the most widely known “raw” artists alongside drawings by some of the field’s more recently emerged figures. Chronologically and thematically, the exhibition begins with Art Brut in its original sense—works produced by socially-marginalized individuals diagnosed as mentally ill and, in some cases, institutionalized. Among the earliest are two of Wölfli’s small but powerful drawings, both incorporating portraits of his alter-ego, St. Adolf. A generation younger than Wölfli, Friederich Schröder-Sonnenstern was a brilliant nonconformist intermittently institutionalized for his defiant behavior. Each of his three drawings in the show portrays one or more of the grotesquely hilarious hybrid beings that were his stock in trade. Their graphic sophistication and nuanced use of color are characteristic of his work, as is their sardonic treatment of his favorite themes—sexuality, power relationships, metaphysics and apocalypse. Of equal graphic power, if far less extreme in their subject matter, are the drawings of Mexico’s Martín Ramírez , confined for most of his life in a California mental institution. Two of the three examples here incorporate a favorite architectural motif—rows of open doorways stacked in tiers, suggesting a potentially limitless structure with no apparent exit. His drawing of a man seated at a table with a pen in hand might be a self-portrait. Of special interest is the show’s striking, collage-augmented drawing of a starkly white-faced man on horseback. The power reflected in his heroic pose is reinforced by his horse’s prominently displayed phallus, as well as the mysterious, ringed staff-like form balanced atop the horse’s backside and supported by the horseman’s right hand. Today, relatively few of the countless individuals diagnosed as mentally ill remain institutionalized, and, in recent decades, many have been left to their

own devices, often winding up homeless and problemplagued. Such has been the case with several artists represented here, including Dwight Mackintosh, whose intense figural drawings are characterized by concentric wiry lines and indecipherable cursive texts, reflecting an urgency surpassing his powers of verbal expression. Indecipherable texts are even more prominent in the drawings of contemporary artist Dan Miller, diagnosed as autistic. He writes words and numbers on top of each other until they blur beyond focus, densely accumulating around his crudely rendered images of ordinary objects. Melvin “Milky” Way was a functional member of society, before he was socially derailed by the onset of mental problems in his twenties. Individual letters, numbers and symbols are clearly legible in his densely composed, cryptic drawings, whose meanings remain obscure. Several artists represented in dRAW created in solitude while living in the midst of mainstream society. After he was forced into isolation by the Nazis during World War II, Polish shopkeeper Edmund Monseil began a 20-year output of obsessive drawing, covering sheets of paper with images of mustachioed figures whose faces are replicated on a miniature scale in dense swarms that completely fill each drawing’s space. These works are textbook examples of horror vacui, or fear of empty space, as evidenced by the example in the exhibition. Chicago’s Henry Darger spent much of his life writing and elaborately illustrating an epic novel, Realms of the Unreal, which has posthumously made him the most famous American outsider artist. The exhibition includes two of his inventive composite tracings illustrating the adventures of the Vivian girls, his heroines, and a fanciful depiction of a “Blengin,” a winged dragon-like ally of the Vivian girls. James Castle spent his life in rural Idaho with members of his birth family but was socially isolated by his deafness. He kept mainly to himself, scavenging materials he used to draw and make small constructions distinguished by an idiosyncratic formal simplicity. J.B. Murray was an African American sharecropper whose bare-bones house in rural Georgia certainly

Friedrich Schroder-Sonnenstern, Schatten und Licht, 1958 Colored pencil on paper, 28他 x 20, David Syrek / David Csicsko Collection

Martin Ramirez, Untitled, c. 1952-1955 Mixed media on paper, 52½ x 37ž in., Audrey Heckler Collection, Photo: Visko Hatfield

gave the appearance of profound isolation. Murray evidently spent much of his time alone there in his later years, after he began drawing and painting. But he lived near relatives and the rural church he regularly attended, and before he became an artist he fathered 11 children. His work is culturally linked to that of other 20thcentury African American artists represented here, including Alabama’s Bill Traylor, born a plantation slave, and Thornton Dial, whose work has gained widespread recognition as front-line contemporary art, discussed without reference to limiting adjectives like self-taught or vernacular. Roy Ferdinand, a master of clear-eyed visual street reporting in New Orleans’s black neighborhoods, deserves the same kind of respect for his tellingly detailed drawings, but, as recognition comes, he won’t know about it, as he died of cancer in 2004 when he was only 45. To return to Murray’s work, the cultural context is important, but it’s more properly understood and appreciated as visionary art. In fact, it was a religious vision Murray experienced in 1978 that set him off creatively. Although he was illiterate, his art took the form of “spirit writing,” a kind of calligraphic glossolalia, or divine language, which he claimed the ability to read and understand when he studied it through a clear glass container of “holy water” drawn from the well in his yard. No one else has ever been able to perform this feat of translation, but the drawings are beautiful, appropriately fluid and pure—raw—without contrivance, as exemplified by the two in the exhibition. Visionary art is art fueled by encounters with unfamiliar forces or entities, vast expansions of consciousness or other personal unexplainable experiences. Although psychiatry has traditionally stigmatized individuals who report such experiences, they’re surely as common among functioning members of society as among psychiatric patients. This exhibition features works by a number of contemporary artists who have been steadily creating visionary art for years: Noviadi Angkasapura, Charles Benefiel, J.J. Cromer, Daniel Martin Diaz, Anthony Dominguez, William Fields, Solange Knopf, M’onma,

Lubos Plny and George Widener. Their work is consistently interesting and dynamic—and, it bears repeating, contemporary. The work is sophisticated, but no more so than Wölfli’s or Schröder-Sonnenstern’s. These artists have gone about their creative lives with confident autonomy—aware to some extent of contemporaneous developments in academic or “fine” art, but disengaged from them. Except for Dominguez—who, sadly, made his self-chosen exit from this world in 2014—all remain alive, receiving and creating. It’s a very good sign for the field. The exhibition includes exemplary drawings by each of them. For those keeping categorical score, all of the 10 artists in that abbreviated list could also be discussed as examples of neuve invention1 (another Dubuffet term) and/or art singulier2—additional subcategories of the field. Scorekeepers will note that fewer than half the exhibition’s artists have been mentioned as this essay wraps up—a concession to familiar limitations (space, time, funding). There are certainly other prominent subcategories of the field represented here. Likewise, much could be said and written about any of the exhibited artists who have gone unmentioned. Fortunately, this is happening, thanks to the continuing, steadily spreading interest in international Art Brut and its offshoots. Internet searches of any of them are likely to turn up additional information and critical insights into their work. As for the experience of looking at—and seeing—this exhibition, viewers can engage most deeply and meaningfully with these drawings by forgetting about the categories and appraising them in terms of their aesthetic power and individuality of expression. Each one represents a dense concentration of personal spiritual energy. These are drawings that had to be made—that urgently needed to be brought into being n 1Dubuffet realised there existed many creators whose work was of comparable power and inventiveness to Art Brut, but their greater contact with normal society and the awareness they had of their art works precluded their inclusion within his strict Art Brut category. …in 1982 this became the Neuve Invention section of the Collection de l’Art Brut. As definitions become more merged this term is losing its significance. www.rawvision.com/about/raw-visions-definitions 2A term more used in Europe relating to the works of artists, usually, but not exclusively, selftaught, that are close to Art Brut and Outsider artists, both in appearance and directness of expression. These are the artists “on the margins,” that grey area of definition that lies between Outsider Art and normal mainstream art, very similar to Dubuffet’s Neuve Invention category. Ibid.

Dan Miller, Untitled, 2011 Acrylic and graphite on paper, Courtesy of Ricco-Maresca Gallery Opposite: J.B. Murray, Untitled, c. 1978-1988 Tempera, marker on paper, 15ž x 13Ÿ in, Cavin-Morris Gallery

Dwight Mackintosh, Untitled, 1993 Ink on paper, 10½ x 15 in, Robert A. Roth Collection, Photo: Wm. H. Bengtson Opposite: Melvin Way, HOCH2 CH2, 2012 Ink on paper, 6 x 3½ in, Andrew Edlin Gallery

Gunther Schutzenhofer, Butterfly Pencil on paper, 17Ÿ x 44 in, Louis Dreyfus Family Collection Opposite: Bill Traylor, Untitled Blue and brown pencil on cardboard, 19ž x 15 in, Private collection. Photo: Wm. H. Bengtson

Roy Ferdinand, Last Supper, I989 Mixed media, 21Âź x 28 in, Robert A. Roth Collection, Photo: Wm. H. Bengtson

Chris Hipkiss, Untitled Pencil on paper, xxxx, Robert A. Roth Collection, Photo: Wm. H. Bengtson

William Randolph Fields, Anthropogenesis, 2014 Pastel, colored pencil on paper, 39Âź x 39Âź in, William Randolph Fields Opposite: Matthew Kirk, Boiled, Stretched, and Drying, 2012 Chalk, gouache, India Ink, and pencil on paper, 60 x 48 in, Courtesy of the artist and Louis B. James

Carlo Zinelli, Untitled, (Priest at Altar/Woman Seated on Bench), 1973 Gouache on paper, 19¾ x 27½ in, Robert A. Roth Collection, Photo: Wm. H. Bengtson Opposite: Karel Havlícek, Hmyzí hlava / Insects head, 1955 Pencil on paper, 120 x 14½ in, Cavin-Morris Gallery

Josef Hofer, Untitled, 2014 Pencil, colored pencil on paper, 18½ x 24 in, Cavin-Morris Gallery Opposite: Mike Lyon, Untitled 15, 2009 Ball point pen, graphite on paper, 11 x 8½ in, Little City Arts

Hiroyuki Doi, Soul, 2014 Ink on Washi, 38 x 37 in, Ricco Maresca Gallery Opposite: Genevieve Seille, Dessin Architectural, 1991 Mixed media, collage on paper, 70他 x 32 in, Luise Ross Gallery

James Castle, Untitled (double sided) Mixed media on found paper 12 7/8 x 13, Collection of Robert Grossett, Photo: Wm. H. Bengtson Opposite: Nick Blinko, Somn-ambulance, c 1998-2006 Ink on paper, 24 ž x 19Ÿ, Audrey Heckler Collection, Photo: Visko Hatfield

Susan Te Kahurangi King, Untitled, 1960 Crayon on paper, 13Âź x 8Âź in, Courtesy of the artist and Chris Byrne

George Widener, Tiger n Madge, 2013 Ink on paper, 48 x 68 in, Ricco Maresca Gallery

Henry Speller, Untitled, Graphite, crayon on paper, 18 x 24, Collection of Stacy and Tim Bruce Opposite: Max Romain, The Circus, 1995 Graphite on paper, 21 x 22 in, American Primitive Gallery

Lubos Plny, Man at Childbirth, 2007 Mixed media on paper, 37¾ x 26¾, Cavin-Morris Gallery Opposite: Daniel Martin Diaz, Spirit Oscillator, 2013 Graphite on paper, 14½ x 11 in, American Primitive Gallery

Thornton Dial, Jungle Life, 1991 Graphite and charcoal on paper, 33 x 25½ in, Intuit Collection, Gift of Lael and Eugenie Johnson, 2006.15 Opposite: JJ Cromer, Untitled, 2015 Ink on paper, 20 x 16 in, Collection of Mike and Cindy Noland

William Hawkins, Untitled, c. 1987 Pencil on paper, 14 x 17 in, Robert A. Roth Collection, Photo: Wm H. Bengtson Opposite: M’onma, Untitled, 2003 Colored pencil on paper, 32 1/8 x 19½ in, Cavin-Morris Gallery

Lenders to the exhibition dRAW American Primitive Gallery, New York Monty Blanchard, New York Tim and Stacy Bruce, Chicago Chris Byrne, New York Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York Andrew Edlin Gallery William Fields, NC Robert Grossett, Chicago Healing Arts Initiative, New York Audrey Heckler, New York Louis B. James, New York Louis Dreyfus Family John Michael Kohler Arts Center, WI Karen Lennox, Chicago Little City Arts, Chicago Michael and Cindy Noland, Chicago Lake Polan, Chicago Ricco-Maresca Gallery, New York Luise Ross Gallery, New York Robert A. Roth, Chicago David Syrek and David Csicsko, Chicago

Back cover, Daniel Watson, Gag Me with a Spoon (Self portrait ), 1996 Prismacolor pencil on paper, 30 x 22 in, Intuit Collection, Gift of Mary Donaldson in honor of Daniel Watson

Profile for Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

dRAW catalog  

Designed by David Syrek and with essay by Tom Patterson, this catalog is a remarkable companion to Intuit's dRAW exhibit.

dRAW catalog  

Designed by David Syrek and with essay by Tom Patterson, this catalog is a remarkable companion to Intuit's dRAW exhibit.

Profile for intuitart