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The 1990's witnessed a dramatic upsurge in the discourse about Outsider Art-art created by those living and working "outside" the mainstream art establishment of schools, careers and galleries- and an increase in the volume of discourse on terminology. In the United States this conversation has focused primarily on American artists, but recently has included Europeans. International in scope, this exhibition takes the next step forward. Focussed on five modern masters,

Gedewon» from Ethiopia; Martín Ramírez» from Mexico;

Hung Tung» from Taiwan; Anna Zemánková» from the Czech Republic;

Carlo (Zinelli)» from Italy;


We celebrate both the idiosyncratic genius and the social context of their art, maintaining that as artists and storytellers they represent the highest level of achievement. Indeed, all are recognized as folk heroes in their respective countries. We have chosen to use the word "vernacular" to locate these artists in their specific regional cultures, and "visionaries" to identify their transcendental abilities to tap into what some scholars have described as the "psychic elsewhere".

Outsider Art does not designate a visual style-the art of Gedewon looks very different from that of Zemánková, for example-rather it described the nature of its creator. Yet, there are some compositional similarities. In the cross cultural art in this exhibit, we notice three things in particular: the impulse to cover every part of a surface-even both sides-with dense ornamentation, the representation of the human figure and animals as distorted, caricatured, and hybridized, and the incorporation of words, nonsensical and real , into the artwork.

The Museum of International Folk Art asks us ti delve deeper and more broadly as we consider Outsider and Visionary Art. Bringing together culturally infused art from throughout the globe, we assembled the works in an intimate and dynamic installation. Viewing the art up close and personal, or scanning the panorama, our experiences go beyond the aesthetic. When we're open to it, the art has the power to terrify, to cajole, to amuse, and to heal.

Exhibition Public Programs»

Exhibition dates: October 31 2003 to August 29, 2004

Photography by:
Addison Doty, Umberto Tomba, Paul Smutko, D. James Dee, Tereza Kaburková, Guy Vivien, Blair Clark, Chung-hsin Lin, Joseph Painter, William H. Bengston, Laurent Lecat, Tom van Eyende, Deidi Von Schaewen, Claude Borand and Don Tuttle.

Margaret Z. Robson
Susan McGreevy
Sandy Besser family
Eileen Wells

Leslie Muth, Charmay Allred, Rosalind and Lowell Doherty, Elisabeth and James Alley, Natalie Fitz-Gerald, Debbie and Marty Fishbein, Jane and Bill Buchsbaum, Peggy T. Hall, Kay Delle Koch, Lisa K. Leinberger, Jack and Elaine Levin, Barbara-Rose and Dr. Ed Okun, Joan and Cliff Vernick, Mary Adams Wotherspoon, Susann Craig, James Q. Hall.

Major funding for this exhibition was generously provided by the International Folk Art Foundation, the Museum of New Mexico Foundation,
Lael and Eugenie Johnson, and the Folk Art Committee.

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