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Outliers and American Vanguard Art

Since the last century, the relationship between vanguard and self-taught artists has been defined by contradiction. The established art world has been quick to make clear distinctions between trained and untrained artists, yet at the same time it has been fascinated by outliers whom it draws selectively and intermittently into its orbits. For a new exhibition launching at the National Gallery of Art, curator Lynne Cooke explores shifting conceptualizations of the American outlier across the twentieth century, drawing on the inherent sociality of the exhibition in her installation of these works. This companion catalog, Outliers and American Vanguard Art, offers a fantastic opportunity to consider works by schooled and self-taught creators in relation to each other and defined by historical circumstance.

The art works in Outliers and American Vanguard Art come from three distinct periods when the intersections between mainstream and outlier artists were most dynamic and productive, ushering in exhibitions of art based on various degrees of co-existence, inclusion, and assimilation. Works by such diverse artists as Charles Sheeler, Christina Ramberg, and Matt Mullican are set in conversation with a range of works by such self-taught artists as Horace Pippin, Janet Sobel, and Henry Darger. Cooke also examines a recent increase of radically expressive work that challenges what it means to be an outlier today. She reveals how these distinctions have been freighted with a particularly American point of view as she investigates our assumptions about creativity, artistic practice, and the role of the artist in contemporary culture.
Outliers and American Vanguard Art is the most comprehensive show ever to examine outliers in dialogue with their established peers.   It is sure to inspire vigorous conversation about how artists and the work they make are represented.

448 pages | 450 color plates | 10 x 12 | © 2018

Art: American Art

Black Studies

Folklore and Mythology

Religion: American Religions


""Accessible for most readers without extensive art history backgrounds, and for those looking to expand their understanding of American art and artists creating from the margins."

Library Journal, starred review

"Successfully counters the de facto segregation of self-taught and trained art. . . . Outliers commendably opens space for future projects that offer a frank evaluation and contestation of inequity. . . . Sharp essays by Douglas Crimp, Darby English, and Sorkin are especially illuminating. Lucid artist biographies and stellar reproductions will appeal to all."

CAA Reviews

Table of Contents

Director’s Foreword / Earl A . Powell III
Lenders to the Exhibition
Note to the Reader
Boundary Trouble: Navigating Margin and Mainstream / Lynne Cooke
Modernism’s War on Terror / Darby English
How to Make a Modern Primitive / Richard Meyer
Find-and-Seek: Discovery Narratives, Americanization, and Other Tales of Genius in Modern American Folk Art / Jennifer Jane Marshall
Black Folk Art Redux: A Curatorial Roundtable / Lynne Cooke, John Beardsley, Katherine Jentleson, Faheem Majeed
Museums, oh Museums / Thomas J. Lax
Affinities in Abstraction: Textiles, Otherness, and Painting in the 1970s / Jenni Sorkin
Archives of Femininity / Douglas Crimp
Personal Voyages / Suzanne Hudson
                130 c. 1924 to 1943: Folk Aesthetics Refigured
                202 c. 1968 to 1992: Commensurables and Incommensurables
                260 c. 1998 to 2013: Determining Difference Differently
Checklist of the Exhibition
Image Credits

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