In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic.  Folk Art is characterized by a naïve style, in which traditional rules of proportion and perspective are not employed. As a phenomenon that can chronicle a move towards civilization yet rapidly diminish with modernity, industrialization, or outside influence, the nature of folk art is specific to its particular culture. The varied geographical and temporal prevalence and diversity of folk art make it difficult to describe as a whole, though some patterns have been demonstrated. On the other hand, many 18th- and 19th-century American folk art painters made their living by their work, including itinerant portrait painters, some of whom produced large bodies of work.  Terms that might overlap with folk art are naïve art, tribal art, primitive art, popular art, outsider art, traditional art, tramp art and working-class art/blue-collar art. As one might expect, these terms can have multiple and even controversial connotations but are often used interchangeably with the term "folk art". Folk art expresses cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. It encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more.
If traditional materials are inaccessible, new materials are often substituted, resulting in contemporary expressions of traditional folk art forms. Folk art reflects traditional art forms of diverse community groups - ethnic, tribal, religious, occupational, geographical, age- or gender-based - who identify with each other and society at large.
Folk artists traditionally learn skills and techniques through apprenticeships in informal community settings, though they may also be formally educated. Antique folk art Antique folk art is distinguished from traditional art in that, while collected today based mostly on its artistic merit, it was never intended to be'art for art's sake' at the time of its creation. Examples include: weathervanes, old store signs and carved figures, itinerant portraits, carousel horses, fire buckets, painted game boards, cast iron doorstops and many other similar lines of highly collectible "whimsical" antiques. Contemporary folk art a folk art wall in Lincoln Park, Chicago Many folk art traditions like quilting, ornamental picture framing, and decoy carving continue to thrive, while new forms constantly emerge. Contemporary folk artists are frequently self-taught as their work is often developed in isolation or in small communities across the country.
 The Smithsonian American Art Museum houses over 70 such artists; for example, Elito Circa, a famous and internationally recognized folk artist, developed his own styles without professional training or guidance from the masters. Influence on mainstream art Folk artworks, styles and motifs have inspired various artists.
For example, Pablo Picasso was inspired by African tribal sculptures and masks, while Natalia Goncharova and others were inspired by traditional Russian popular prints called luboks.  In music, Igor Stravinsky's seminal The Rite of Spring was inspired by pagan religious rites. See also iconVisual Arts portal Alebrije African folk art American Folk Art Museum Chester Cornett Chillum Chinese folk art Ex-voto Guy Cobb John William "Uncle Jack" Dey Juliana R. Force Kuthiyottam Latin American Retablos Ljuskrona Lubok Madhubani painting Mingei (Japanese folk art movement) Museum folklore Naïve art Nakshi Kantha Nose art North Malabar Outsider art Phad painting Pakistani vehicle art Pasaquan Rural crafts Theyyam Thidambu Nritham Tribal art Warli painting Whirligig Yakshagana Czech folklore Let's get out of here, Judy said.
They're getting closer, I can't stand it. But you know, our fashions are in fashion only briefly, then they go out and stay that way for a long time. From John Ashbery's "Girls on the Run" Outsider artists-visionary, schizophrenic, primitive, psychotic, obsessive, compulsive, untutored, vernacular, self-taught, naive, brut, rough, raw, call them what you will-are insiders now. Girls with penises, wings, and horns! Healing machines cobbled together with wires!
Newspaper letters carefully sliced apart, then pieced back together! Wooden preacher figures, nearly life-size! Art with numbers and codes! Taxidermied squirrels covered with sequins and fitted with angel wings! Jesus painted on toilet-paper tubes!Buttons and glitter and Star Wars figurines affixed to a board! Handmade signs, with the loopy letters filled in! At this moment, the universe of outsider art is huge. And it's being enthusiastically embraced-one might say swallowed whole-by the contemporary-art world.
Art fairs, biographies, retrospectives, and collections are springing up in the name of outsider art. Insiders are borrowing outsider art for their installations. To take a page from Dr. Seuss, the Star-Belly Sneetches, the insiders who once loved having "stars upon thars, " now gaze on the Plain-Belly Sneetches, the outsiders, with envy. Oh, if only there were a Star-Off Machine!Instead, the outsiders (or at least their artworks) are being invited into the Star-On Machine. Short for Yield to Total Elation. That's only the tip of the current outsider iceberg. The National Gallery of Art last year acquired a large collection of Castle's works, including a string-bound matchbox crammed with tiny handmade books, drawings on bits of ice-cream cartons, and many rip-outs of a comic-strip figure, always in the same pose. In London, the Hayward Gallery presented Alternative Guide to the Universe, featuring such outsiders as Bartlett, Rizzoli, Von Bruenchenhein, and Guo Fengyi.
And the Philadelphia Museum of Art recently celebrated a gift of about 200 outsider works from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection with the exhibition Great and Mighty Things, where you could see a choice chunk of the American outsider canon. Yes, there's a canon. With outsiders so clearly on the inside, you have to wonder whether the concept of outsider art has lost all sense. But if that's so, then why do some artists still carry the label? Why is there still an Outsider Art Fair (in New York)?
An American Visionary Art Museum (in Baltimore)? A curator of art brut and self-taught art (at the American Folk Art Museum)? From the beginning, the term outsider art has been trouble.
One of the contributors to the catalog for Great and Mighty Things, Lynne Cooke, writes, From all quarters-theoretical, institutional, and museological-apologies regularly attend usage of the term. Every so often, someone tries to change the name, playing up or down one quality or another-art of the insane, art brut, visionary art, self-taught art. But outsider art, coined in 1972 as a recasting of Jean Dubuffet's term art brut, is the name that has stuck.
Maybe it's not such a bad thing. After all, outsider does have a nice little paradox embedded in it: for an artist to be considered an outsider, he or she must first be brought inside the professional art world by an insider. In other words, everyone the art world considers an outsider is de facto an insider.
The standard outsider biography thus includes not only a traumatic (typically motherless) childhood, a history of institutionalization (orphanage, asylum, prison), a stunted education, a subsistence job, and an intense drive to make art, but also a discovery story, a tale of someone with cultural connections who brings the outsider in. In 1895, Wölfli was locked up in the Waldau Mental Asylum after trying to molest very young girls. There he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and drew compulsively. Walter Morgenthaler, a psychiatrist, not only supplied Wölfli with colored pencils and paper but became an enthusiastic collector and, in 1921, published a study of his work. For an artist to be considered an outsider, he or she must first be brought inside the professional art world by an insider.
When Wölfli died, in 1930, he left behind thousands of drawings packed with musical notes and dense patterns of snails, ovals, and mandalas, and he had become something of a curiosity. Carl Jung collected his art oh, those mandalas! And Wölfli appeared as case No. 450 in Hans Prinzhorn's famous 1922 book of psychotic art, Artistry of the Mentally Ill. It was this book that the artist Max Ernst shared with the surrealists in Paris.
But Wölfli's ascension from madman to artist was largely the work of Dubuffet (1901-85). In the 1940s, Dubuffet, who learned of Wölfli during a trip to Switzerland, began collecting the works of outcast and insane artists under the label art brut, or "raw art, " and formed an organization (whose members included André Breton, Albert Camus, Jean Cocteau, Paul Éluard, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Tristan Tzara) to protect and collect this art. Tellingly, Dubuffet, the kingmaker of outsiders, could be pretty picky about whom he let in. And though Dubuffet collected children's drawings, he excluded them from the realm of art brut because he saw children as mimics of adult culture, like the chameleon and the monkey.
Outsider art had a different trajectory. Ground zero wasn't the psychiatric wards, but rather the South. I looked up in the sky and right there in the noon daylight He hung a tombstone out for me to make. Like Wölfli, Edmondson was lifted into the world of high art by a chain of insiders-in his case, a Vanderbilt professor named Sidney Hirsch, the photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe, and finally Alfred H.Of the Museum of Modern Art, which gave Edmondson a solo show, the first there for an African American artist, in 1937. Edmondson's ascent was unusually quick.
More typical was the slow rise of Bill Traylor c. The American Folk Art Museum currently has two shows devoted to him.
Traylor, also the son of slaves, had a long trip (mostly after his death) to the pantheon. In 1939, when he was an old man drawing on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama, he met Charles Shannon, an artist six decades younger. Shannon was enthralled with Traylor's ways: He never agonized over his work.Shannon did his best to get Traylor national recognition. But it didn't come until long after Traylor died. This was the birth of the American self-taught canon, launching the fortunes of 20 outsider artists. The funny thing was, many of these artists were already well-known figures in their own towns-hardly outsiders, as Livingston observed. If they had been, she said, we would never have found them.
(Which raises a conundrum: if an outsider paints in the forest and no one sees him.) You may be wondering why Henry Darger, the most famous outsider of all, has hardly been mentioned. In 1973, Darger died, leaving behind in his cramped room his illustrated magnum opus, The Story of the Vivian Girls, along with bottles of Pepto-Bismol, balls of string, coloring books, ads featuring the Coppertone girl, and his daily weather logs. Forty years later, Darger is the uncontested poster boy for outsider art.The American Folk Art Museum has a study center devoted to him and has presented numerous shows, including one titled Dargerism, about his influence on other artists. MoMA PS1 had a show comparing Darger with Francisco de Goya and with the contemporary artists Jake and Dinos Chapman. A biography by Jim Elledge, Henry Darger, Throw-Away Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist, has just been published. But Darger isn't in the Biennale. Nor was he in Great and Mighty Things. Or in the Hayward show. Is Darger in danger of being ejected from the outsider circle for being too much of an insider? So here we are in the present, which you might call an inside-out moment. Some outsiders are being sidelined. Others are being welcomed into the best museums and fairs. Still others are being rescued from their outsider label. Notice the mocking quotes around outsiders. And a number of insider artists are inching closer toward outsider modes. The artist Sarah Sze, who was chosen to present her work in the United States Pavilion at this year's Biennale, created Triple Point, a set of "environments" that include faux rocks and ivy, a sleeping bag, espresso cups, bags of sand, ladders, paint cans, lamps, and branches. And the traveling exhibition Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos (part of which is in the Biennale) features not only the German artist Trockel's own wool paintings and book drafts, but also the works of self-taught artists-paper birds by James Castle; cocoons of yarn by Judith Scott (born deaf and with Down syndrome); lifelike dolls created by Morton Bartlett; and tiny encyclopedias crafted by Manuel Montalvo. The catalog describes Trockel's art process as "gathering and gleaning, " which is a very outsidery thing to do. How to make sense of this craze? The critic and Stanford professor Terry Castle, writing in the London Review of Books, outlines two distinct outsider modes-the minimalist one, an "austere and evacuated style" (Traylor, for example), and the "paranoid or maximalist" style, in which the artist displays a "manic compulsion to fill every inch" of paper or space. It's the cramming urge, the "horror vacui" style, that dominates and that also seems to attract insider artists. Think of Wölfli, Ramírez, Darger. Or think of the sculptor Emery Blagdon (1907-86), who kept adding paintings and the gemlike wire objects he called "pretties" to his Healing Machine-the vast apparatus he created to ward off disease. These outsiders hoard, arrange, add, and elaborate endlessly, virtually engulfing themselves in a sea of objects and markings that have meaning for them.
They make the world their oyster, their palace. Each page, painting, or structure they create is but a part of their lifework. What's powerful about this kind of grandiose vision-or mission, or paradise, or machine-is that it can't be easily interrupted or ruined. Look at a single decorated toilet-paper tube or a painted sign taken from the Everlasting Gospel Mission of Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900-80), and you can still see the intensity of her vision.
Remove a few "pretties" from Blagdon's Healing Machine or hang a few strands of it in an exhibit (as the Philadelphia Museum of Art did), and you can still make out the grand obsession. While thinking about outsider art, I kept flashing back to Claes Oldenburg's Ray Gun Wing (his collection of toy ray-guns and natural objects that resemble them), recently shown at MoMA. Here Oldenburg breaks down the boundaries between finding and making, collecting and curating, nature and commerce, obsessiveness and humor, garbage and art-much as outsiders do.This was an attitude that was contemporary once upon a time-the idea that art can be ephemeral, funny, cheap, dirty, chancy, trashy. As Oldenburg once said, I'd like to get away from the notion of a work of art as something outside of experience, something that is located in museums, something that is terribly precious. Of course, he failed at that, spectacularly.
It seems that everything called art, even some outsider art, is now precious, and pricey. There's something about the outsider artist that still eludes insiders, still makes the outsider an ideal, a model, a stigma, a fate to be feared. And that something, I think, is the outsider's strange mix of compulsion and nonchalance.
It took him roughly three decades. Soon after he was done, he left the property, never to return. Henry Darger, who must have spent practically every waking hour on The Story of the Vivian Girls, said to his neighbor shortly before he died, Throw it all away. " And when the artist known as the Pope of Montreal lost his vast installation of hats in a fire, he told an admirer simply, "Well, that's sad, but I will do it again.
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