Singular Art

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Singular Art

Who urges the man to want to label everything, to catalog, to lock any creation into a definition, a style, an artistic expression?

The most striking example is that of Art Brut. In the 1900s, psychiatrists in Europe are beginning to focus on creative expression of the mentally ill.

In 1907, Dr Meunier, in France, publishes ” the Art at the madmen,” Morgen Thaler, in Switzerland, fascinated by the personality and the strange creation of Wolfli (the poet Rilke and the German artists as Paul Klee, in 1912, declare that the Art of the madmen is to be taken profoundly seriously.)  Hanz Prinzhorn, in Heidelberg, collects works of patients under his care and publishes in 1922, “Expression of madness.”

Max Ernst, who followed courses of psychology, makes discover to the surrealists the collection and the work of Prinzhorn; surrealists shout “oh genius”, passionates that they are by all the forms of free art; they are seduced by the fertile imagination of the patients. At the same time, Kandinsky denounces the academic art and asserts not being interested in the art of the madmen but in ” the spontaneous art of interned persons.” In their research, the surrealists will use hypnosis, drugs, dreams, and all the means to raise the unconscious caused censorship provoked by the western culture. André Breton, former external in psychology, writes: “If the depths of our spirit conceal strange forces capable of increasing those of the surface or to fight successfully against them, it is best to capture it.

The fascination exercised by this shape of free art on the artists, historians, doctors, intellectuals, is such as it worries certain political parties. In 1937, the Nazis will organize the exhibition of “degenerate art”: madmen’s drawings of Prinzhorn are next to the modern paintings of Nolde, Chagall, Beckmann, Klee, and … “it is obvious that, for the represented artists, the all of reality is only a vast brothel,” asserts the catalog.

In 1945, Breton and Dubuffet create the Compagnie de l’Art Brut and put down the term “Art Brut” as it would apply for a patent. From that moment, all the exhibition organizers are going to begin to look for labels to replace the term belonging to the biggest wine merchant of Modern Art, Jean Dubuffet. He will collect too the works of mentally ill, the work of shepherds who were certainly not of Art Brut but Popular Art since the dawn of time, and works of self-taught creators – the most famous being Gaston Chaissac (in 1945, Chaissac protests and says: ” I make rustic Modern Art!” In 1949, he says: “People say I make Art Brut, but I don’t think that is what I make!”). In fact, Jean Dubuffet, creating the term “art brut”, creates a ghetto where he mixes asylums art, folk art, naive art, “art of those who dare” – the self-taughts.

You must know that the work of Dubuffet – painter – is imbued with collector Dubuffet. To get out of this confinement, I counted one hundred and thirty more generic terms, one hundred and thirty drawers to classify the unclassifiable…

 when a single word was enough: “FREE”.

Luis Marcel, 3 April 2004


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