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Exhibition focuses on the visionary nature of art commonly known as outsider art
The Doors of Perception, Frieze New York 2019. Photos by Mark Blower. Courtesy: Mark Blower/Frieze.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Outsider Art Fair announced The Doors Of Perception, a unique project in collaboration with Frieze NY curated by the artist Javier Téllez. The exhibition features over forty visionary artists from around the world, including works by Noviadi Angkasapura (b. 1979, Indonesia), Frédéric Bruly Bouabré (1923–2014, Ivory Coast), Henry Darger (1892-1973, USA), Janko Domsic (1915-1983, Croatia/France), Minnie Evans (1892-1987, USA), Guo Fengyi (1942–2010, China), Martín Ramírez (1895-1963, Mexico/USA), Judith Scott (1943-2005, USA), Melvin Way (b. 1954, USA), George Widener (b. 1962, USA), Adolf Wölfli (1864–1930, Switzerland), and Anna Zemánkova (1908–1986, Czech Republic), among many others. Works have been sourced through OAF participating galleries including Henry Boxer, CavinMorris, Creative Growth Art Center, Andrew Edlin, Carl Hammer, Galerie Pol Lemétais, Polysémie, Ricco/Maresca, SHRINE, as well as borrowed from private collections.

The Doors of Perception focuses on the visionary nature of art commonly known as outsider art, art brut, or self-taught art. The exhibition presents a large constellation of works made by exceptionally gifted artists from five continents, offering a panorama of art created on the margins of society. Whether psychiatric patients, self-taught visionaries, or mediums, each of the artists in the exhibition felt at some point in their life the need to create an artistic language of their own in order to reveal what they understood to be the true nature of things. Often disenfranchised because of their mental condition or social status and without any previous artistic training, many of the artists exhibited here dedicated their lives obsessively to the creation of complex visual representations, often after experiencing a life-changing epiphany. A meeting with a supernatural power—whether an encounter with the divine, spirits of the dead, or extraterrestrial beings— might have triggered this impulse to create. These remarkable events produced strong centrifugal forces that drove the artists from chaos to order, opening for them “doors of perception” to a transcendental reality that, in many cases, helped them survive their otherwise unstable life.

The artists included in the exhibition are, as Sol Lewitt described conceptual artists, “rather mystics than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.” Their many artistic languages not only question our beliefs about madness and normalcy, but also subvert the notion of reality as we conceive it. The theme of transformation is recurrent in their works: the body is perceived as a multiple entity (Domsic, Fengyi, Charles Steffen, Carlo Zinelli), the human and the animal merge (Angkasapura, Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern, Shinichi Sawada, Sava Sekulić), fantastic architectures grow as if they were part of the natural world (Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, William Hall, Marcel Storr), imaginary worlds are filled with extraterrestrial animal, plants, and minerals in dreamlike landscapes (Darger, Joseph Yoakum, Zemánková). Notions of inside and outside permeate so inner and outer are perceived as fluid entities with internal organs and bones made visible in portraits of the body (Angkasapura, Fengyi, Luboš Plný). Everything is represented in a state of “becoming,” so the boundaries between self and space collapse and a new understanding of reality arises, presenting us with a perception that is characteristic of mystic visions, hallucinatory states, and the delusions of psychosis.

The visionary artist perceives space in a mimetic manner, similar to the way that people living with schizophrenia experience depersonalization through assimilation to space, a phenomenon described with precision by the French writer Roger Caillois: “Space seems to be a devouring force. Space pursues them, encircles them, digests them … It ends by replacing them. Then the body separates itself from thought, the individual breaks the boundary of his skin and occupies the other side of his senses.”

Truly utopian, the visionary artists represent the world anew, so they often think of the future as a parallel dimension to the present (Hall, Prophet Royal Robertson, Widener, Wölfli). For them, time is a perpetual possibility, having invented codes to access a new consciousness beyond the flat world of appearances (John Devlin, Ionel Talpazan, Way, Widener). As William Blake wrote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” – Javier Téllez

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