‘Vestiges and Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic’
“An outsider artist,” writes Sanford Schwartz, “is a figure who makes a body of work while operating in relative isolation, unaware of, or indifferent to, developments in the work of professional artists…someone who resolutely, and perhaps eccentrically, wants to live and work on her or his own terms. The Folk Art Museum’s show is loosely about the fact that many of these persons have presented their experiences as stories or running accounts of one sort or another. In a ledger from a hospital, for example, James Edward Deeds Jr., an inmate, would for a time make a portrait drawing of a some known or imagined person on one page and on the next a little scene or an animal that might relate to that person. Other pieces give us charts of numbers, or of invented creatures, or of systems that might pertain to language.
“The pages from the diary of Carlo Keshishian, who is English and in his thirties, are particularly riveting. He writes out his thoughts in letters so small and tightly placed together that from any distance all we see is a near-airless mass of tiny black lines, which seems to undulate as we look at it. The drawings of Susan Te Kahurangi King, which have only begun to be seen in New York, are forceful. She often uses cartoon characters in her scenes, but her disorienting pictures have less to do with popular culture than with choreographing awkward, even impossible relations between bodies, which fly into and out of each other, or seemingly pull themselves inside out. However her efforts are labeled, one wants to see more of them. Cartoons and comic strips—or a sense of these forms—underlie, finally, the work of the most impressive figures in the exhibition, Henry Darger and Adolf Wölfli. For viewers concerned with outsider art they are among the territory’s old masters.”
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