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The House of Art: Drawings and Prints from the Artist Community at Gugging

April 1–August 13, 1995

Recent decades in Europe and the United States have seen a growing interest in "outsider art," a term used to describe work created by people who have no academic training in art, who operate somewhat outside the boundaries of society, or who have minimal human interaction, such as visionaries, mediums, mental patients, prisoners, or recluses. A romantic dream of tracing the creative instinct to its purest and most authentic source--spontaneous, truly original, and unsullied by preexisting aesthetic or cultural traditions--has often driven physicians, artists, and collectors to study or pursue outsider art. European interest in this phenomenon dates back at least to the early years of the twentieth century when Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque explored the "savage values" of tribal art, and Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky were fascinated by the creations of children and mental patients. In the early 1920s the German psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933) collected and wrote about the art of mental patients, becoming a pioneer in the field of outsider art. In the same years the enormous body of work by the extraordinary Swiss schizophrenic visionary Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930), who has remained one of the best-known outsider artists, was "discovered." From the mid-1940s onward the well-known French painter, sculptor, and graphic artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) assembled a major collection of work by mental patients and other outsiders that forms the basis of the museum known as the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. Dubuffet invented the term "art brut" for work that is raw, unpolished, unstereotypical, and free from cultural conditioning. During the last twenty-five years outsider art--produced at a distance from the world of museums, galleries, and academic art schools--has been widely collected and exhibited in cities from London to São Paolo to Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The prints and drawings shown here are by nine individuals who are or were patients at the Austrian State Psychiatric Hospital near Vienna. Their work has formed a highly visible part of recent international interest in the phenomenon of outsider art.

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Ann Percy

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