Thursday, December 21, 2006

Censorship and Outsider Art - Adolf Wolfli

Digging through my archives, I found this little rant.
This note was in response to a friends comment on a gallery exhibit in which the artist was physically assaulted due to the 'controversial' nature of her works on display.
I can't locate my original note, or my friends' response. However, I did manage to find the original new article that sparked the following tangential digression into the genre of "Outsider Art"
From 05/30/2004: Attacked for art, S.F. gallery to close

I guess as an art school dropout; I've managed to retain a few coherent thoughts on the subject, however biased they may be...
I've also slept through my share of late evening art history classes after being up for 72 hours straight painting, talking, drinking, and god-knows-what-else, and still find it fascinating to this day. Even managed to get exiled/promoted to the honors classes, where I was forced to endure lessons on writing a coherent paragraph (no joke: opening thesis, body/proof, closing statement/summary.) However, I digress.
Please don't misunderstand me regarding the 'gratuitous' comment. I was mainly referring to artwork(visual, aural, etc.) that tends to jerk the audience around trying to elicit some Hallmark greeting card response, which I felt the artist in the woman's gallery was employing. Granted, that observation was from seeing only one image. I could be wrong about the artist's original intention; but, it looked like a blatant attempt to piss some people off. Unfortunately, it seemed to have worked and resulted in a person being bodily harmed, as well as destroying her source of income and livelihood. That sucks, and it's unfortunate, in my opinion, that art that appears, intentionally created to get a rise out of its audience, would have such tragic results.

Adolf Wolfi links:

Raw Vision - Adolf Wolfli
Art Brut - Phyllis Kind Gallery
The Artist and Art
SPK summary

On the other hand, you mention creations and works of art done by the criminal, and insane as being valid. While you neglected to include the criminally insane, and the insanely criminal, I would agree with you wholeheartedly. I've discovered some incredible artists that exist on the 'fringes' of society. While not I am not at all interested in the novelty of Ed Gein's clown paintings, I do find (see 'Outsider Art' and for some examples) or the Art Brut movement() founded/initiated by Jean Dubuffet to be really some really fascinating and compelling expressions of the human psyche( as if there were any other types..).
A great example of this, for me, would be the work of Adolf Wolfli, and the posthumous interpretation of his musicial by 'first generation' Industrial bands, SPK. Take a look at:

Yes, this band included Graeme Revell who is probably about as prolific composing film scores as Danny Elfman (of Oingo Boingo and Simpsons fame) who went on to score the soundtracks for such movies as, well, take a look here:
In my opinion, this is a perfect marriage of the avant-garde meeting the 'fringe' elements of society, as expressed in art.
Of course, this was done at a time when groups like Throbbing Gristle were doing their COUM Transmissions performances and Richard Kern was documenting the underbelly of the Lower East Side with the likes of Lydia Lunch, et al. Different times, different boundaries which gave birth to the likes of Karen Finley, Diamanda Galas, Kathy Acker (whom I adore as a writer), and Robert Mapplethorpe as obvious, popular examples of the 'fringe' encroaching upon mainstream tastes.

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