THE GENIUS & THE INGENIOUS: THE OBSESSION & INFLUENCE OF OUTSIDER ART
With Guest Curator, Chris Beck
On Display June 1st thru July 27th
It would be easy to step into this exhibit and label the work of these artists as“uncivilized” or “crude.” And while these artists do not have formal training, many of these artists are the product of lessons from family and community members or life and spiritual experiences.
As such, it would be naive to view the works of Charlie Lucas, Thornton Dial, Mary T. Smith or others without taking into account the complex social structures they came out of. These masterpieces were born in the Jim Crow Era to share-croppers with third-grade educations and are records of a visual language developed over generations. They tell the artists’ histories, spiritual journeys, and hopes for America. They are contemporary representations of life in the American South.
But this work wasn’t made for us.
We are simply bystanders. Witnesses to their obsessions.
And perhaps that is why it is so easy for many to dismiss these artists and their work.
They, after-all, never expected anyone to pay attention.
Instead, over the last seventy-five years, they have quietly infiltrated our contemporary landscape. They have influenced many of the best selling artists of the 20th Century — Robert Rauschenberg, John-Michel Basquiat, and Jasper Johns, to name a few. We see their work appropriated every day on gallery walls and in spreads of magazines.
Last week (May 22, 2018), the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a major exhibit of these Self-Taught Contemporary Artists hailing from the American South. This exhibition featured work by Thornton Dial, Purvis Young, and others — artists also currently on display here today. For the first time, these artists were hung alongside and recognized with the 20th century powerhouses that they had long influenced.
As Ken Johnson wrote, “The lesson of such works is that really vital art -- whether you call it folk art, fine art or just plain art -- happens when otherwise inert traditional forms are brought to life not only by skilled hands but also by singularly imaginative minds.”
ABOUT CHRIS BECK:
Chris Beck is an Alabama Native who currently resides in North Georgia. From a young age, Chris expressed an interest in art, and he had supportive parents who encouraged his creative talents. After earning a BA in English, Chris began ahomebuilding career in Atlanta where he was introduced to self-taught art. In 2006, Chris met Alabama art legend Charlie Lucas who encouraged Chris to “find what’s inside”. Inspired by Lucas’ work, Chris purchased a second-hand welder in January of 2007 and began working with metal. Chris’ work has been recognized through numerous awards, magazine and newspaper articles, museum purchases, and public art installations. Chris’ work is widely collected both nationally and internationally.