June 23, 2024


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Elvis portraits and dream-like visions at the 31st Outdoor Art Fair

Elvis portraits and dream-like visions at the 31st Outdoor Art Fair

The 31st annual Outsider Art Fair, which opened Thursday night at the Metropolitan Pavilion in the Chelsea neighborhood and runs through Sunday, is New York’s largest clearinghouse for work by self-taught and marginalized artists. In some ways it is fairly consistent. Top traders like Ricoh / Maresca Showroom (booth A11) Manhattan f Fleischer/Ullmann Gallery (booth A5) Philadelphia tends to stick to the same large exhibition spaces, and you can always find work by mainstays of the “outdoor” genre: drawings by Bill Traylor, the ex-slave who produced hundreds of memorable animal silhouettes in his eighties, and by Martin Ramirez, He’s famous for the tunnels and dream-like cowboys he created in California mental institutions, dotted throughout the show.

But the other constant, besides these criteria, is an overdose of blatant modernity. Bringing together 64 exhibitors from eight countries, including dozens of new exhibitors at the show, this year’s edition includes Inuit graphics, hand-crafted playing cards, a collection of somber figurines, and two specials – a themed booth called “We Are Birds” benefiting patriots . The Audubon Society, and a series of black and white oil paintings depicting Elvis’ life and horoscope. Tickets are $44 ($22 for students), but if you keep your eyes open, an unexpected moment of beauty will stop you in your tracks. This is what stood out to me.

Kopa Committee / ArtRencontre Association (A2)

Slavko Kobach (1913-1995) was no exotic artist – he trained at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts. But after moving to Paris in 1948, and coming to terms with artists such as André Breton and Jean Dubuffet, he became curator of the influential Brut art collection. In other words, he was one of the fathers of the dreamy art genre. Now, two “science committees,” one Croatian and one from Paris, have joined forces to get the first American exposure in decades of Kopa’s deranged, wildly eerie yet strangely charming paintings. Look out for a large pictured turtle turning its head wryly like a stage actor and 1949’s “Homage to Christopher Columbus,” which includes what appears to be a reference to slave ships.

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Alexander Gorlezky from Magic Signs He collects tantric, astrological and other esoteric drawings and charts about North India. They are not art, exactly, in the sense that they would not have been made with aesthetic goals in mind. But many of them are charming nonetheless, like the game of snakes and ladders organized around it Jain Spiritual progression, an incomplete image of Vishnu divided by a large white square or Hindu version of Argus covered with hundreds of eyes.

OAF presents: “The Life and Death of Elvis Presley: Suite, 1985-1995”

In a special trade show by the show itself, Paul Lafoley (1935-2015), a visionary artist, depicts the life of Elvis in eight intricate, text-heavy, pastel-colored panels that combine his characteristically morbid style of cryptic correspondence with his impossibly dry sense of humor. The first, which focuses on a detailed birth chart, also analyzes the singer’s signature and initials, from E-for-Eros to the S for “Sol: The Sun;” The fourth is titled “Frankenpelvis”. In the final image, Elvis looks like an animatronic robot about to run out in the rain. All eight panels are framed with velvet curtains.

Among the colored pencil drawings made by the Inuit artists in this Canadian gallery show is a pink floral mosquito by Saimaiyu Akesuk which vaguely refers to Keith Haring and “Synthesis (Transformation of Birds)” by Kakolo Sagyaktuk (1940-2020). Covering two sheets of black paper over seven feet long, the Saggiaktok statue has fins, a beak, a green checkered tail, and large hands—but mostly made of undulating lines of bright feather-like color, waves, and a cosmic aura all at once.

Forest Grove Preserve (C9)

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Now back in its second year, this Georgia nonprofit is still popping up Owen Lee (1922-2002), a World War II and Korean War vet turned shrimp boat worker who became a dropout and began painting in a wide range of styles and mediums when he was 42 years old. Ink drawings that Lyle Lansdale, owner of Forest Grove, calls “godless erotica.” Crowded with crosses, fake writing, and oversized genitals, it channels Lee’s anger at his abusive mother and the Catholic Church into charmingly graphic images.

Non-professional experiments (C14)

This new Artist-run gallery Based in Callicoon, New York, in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, he focuses on juxtaposing art and design objects of different genres, mediums, and origins. The very strong selection here includes Southern vernacular pottery – dark stone jugs decorated with grotesque faces – and a pair of elegant tapestries. One, a split quilt, has a thick yellow border with an extra irregular floral border around that, for good measure; The other, a scrap quilt consisting of two panels of stripes of varying thickness, could have been the flag of some warmly dressed Navy SEAL.

Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden (D5)

Valton Tyler (1944-2017) was discovered in Dallas by artist W Valley House Its founder, Donald Vogel, who was offered and bought his work. He also introduced Tyler to the Press at Southern Methodist University where, in 1970-1971, he made a series of etchings of constellations, machines, figures of vegetables, and floating balloons in neat but intricate rows resembling illustrations for a fictional encyclopedia. Tyler’s sharply engaging and striking paintings are inhabited by composite forms that are not strictly animal, vegetable, or metallic but appear to be still lifes that come to real life and learn to dance.

Stephen Powers (D6)

Most gallery booths display work by multiple artists, however the authorities, a New York-based dealer, has an especially eclectic and winning mix. never b James “Son Ford” Thomas (1926-1993), farmer, gravedigger, delta bluesman and, since childhood, a ceramic sculptor specializing in the skulls and busts of George Washington. Washington is here, with her dirty cottony hair and expression of ominous emptiness, splashed with red—making him appear Caucasian, bloody and syphilitic. On the outside wall of the cabin, meanwhile, is a rare “bed tapestries” from the 19th century, covered with hundreds of patterned flowers, which Powers calls “the original blanket.”

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Joshua Lowenfels artwork (D17)

This dealer has been around for a long time Manhattan’s Upper West Side Presents two wonderful “Son Ford” sculptures. One of them, of a bald man giving a sideways look, is so expressive, though simple, that I almost say hello. (“Son Ford” also appears in Lindsay Gallery (C11)along with some Vodou-inspired beaded animal shapes by Nancy Josephson.) You’ll also find 54 handcrafted playing cards, including two of spades (one big, one small), and several cards marked “high” and with Character arrangements of diamonds and sticks give the entire collection a moving, otherworldly, and bespoke feel, even behind glass.

Winter works on paper (D19)

One of the smallest exhibition booths in terms of area, Winter works on paper, a Brooklyn gallery, may contain the most unique works of art, from a 1940s Weegee portrait of a man wearing a giant Stalin mask to a hand-drawn Ghanaian movie poster that reads, “God thank you for not making me an elephant.” And that’s only on the walls! Turn the racks of pictures on the table to discover images as shocking as a corpse in the gutter with its shirt tail on, or as exhilarating as a dapper little Frenchman with a monkey on his shoulder.

Outdoor Art Gallery

Through Sundays, Metropolitan Suite, 125 West 18th Street, 212-337-3338; outsiderartfair.com.