Mental Images: A View from the Outsider Art Fair

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One of the most fascinating displays of self-taught, gifted, and mentally ill artists in the world, the Outsider Art Fair is a hidden treasure for the more curious members of the New York art world. Fair viewers roaming the aisles at last night’s preview included artists Charles LeDray and Tony Oursler, critics Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith, Artnews and Art in America editors Robin Cembalist and Lindsay Pollock, gallerist Jay Gorney, collectors Sue Stoffel and Eileen Cohen, and musician David Byrne. They came to be enchanted by the work of self-taught artists many of us already know, including Henry Darger, Bill Traylor, and Martin Ramirez, and wowed by new discoveries, such as the 100-year-old drawings of an anonymous patient at State Lunatic Asylum No. 3 in Missouri who’s now gaining recognition as The Electric Pencil.

Other fair highlights include Leonard L. “Stoney” St. Clair’s original tattoo parlor illustrations at Maxwell Projects, Charles Steffen’s grotesque figures and scribbled tales about them on brown wrapping paper at Andrew Edlin Gallery, and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s apocalyptic landscape paintings, ceramics, photos, and small thrones made from chicken bones at Carl Hammer Gallery. Other outstanding booths worth checking out are Galerie Christian Berst from Paris, Tokyo’s Yukido Koide Presents, Atlanta’s Tanner-Hill Gallery, and Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York, along with two organizations that provide opportunities for people with mental disabilities to make art, Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland and New York’s Fountain Gallery. Click through for a preview of our favorite images from the fair and find out more about the show at Flavorpill.

The Outsider Art Fair remains on view through Sunday, February 13 at 7W New York.

Anonymous, known as The Electric Pencil, c. 1910

Eugene Andolsek, Untitled (357), n.d., Ink on graph paper, 20 x 15 in. Courtesy American Primitive Gallery

James Castle (1899-1977), Untitled, (Seagull), n.d. Found paper, string and crayon, 10.5 x 7 x 1.5 inches; 26.7 x 17.8 x 3.8 cm. Courtesy Ricco/Maresca Gallery.

Sam Doyle (1906-1985), E. Holmes, c. 1978-81, Enamel on sheet tin, 56 x 36 in; 142.2 x 91.4 cm. Courtesy Ricco/Maresca Gallery.

Martin Ramirez (1895-1963), Untitled, Two Galleons (054), c. 1960-63, Mixed media on pieced paper, 39 x 27 inches. Courtesy Ricco/Maresca Gallery.

Junko Yamamoto: Untitled (mysterious object with fork and spoon), 1990’s, felt appliqué, 26 3/8 x 18 1/2 inch. Photo courtesy: Yukiko Koide Presents, Tokyo.

Yuki Tanaka: Chataro, 2004, marker pen on paper, 15 x 21 3/8 inch. Photo courtesy: Yukiko Koide Presents, Tokyo.

Henry Darger, Untitled (Concentinian Aronburg), watercolor and pencil on paper, 16 x 11.5 inches (40.6 x 29.2 cm). Courtesy Andrew Edlin Gallery

Charles Steffen, Damsells de Aronon, (I guess), pencil on brown wrapping paper, 62.5 x 64 inches (158.8 x 162.6 cm). Courtesy Andrew Edlin Gallery

Thornton Dial, Free Moose, 2001, 36 x 49 x 2 inches (91.4 x 124.5 x 5.1 cm). Courtesy Andrew Edlin Gallery

Giovanni Bosco, Untitled, s.d., Felt pen on paper, 60 x 49,5 cm. Courtesy Galerie Christian Berst

Henriette Zephir, Untitled, 1965, Chinese ink on paper, 50 x 21 cm. Courtesy Galerie Christian Berst