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2020 Outsider Art Fair edition

This week, we’re highlighting the Outsider Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 West 18th Street) open from Friday, January 17 to Sunday, January 19. This fair, with over 60 galleries and institutions taking part, is dedicated to promoting and educating the public about the art form known variously as art brut, folk art, modern primitive, outsider art, primitive art, self-taught, or vernacular art among other names. As you might expect, all these definitions translate into a wide assortment of artists and works, from drawing to sculpture to photography, making this show possibly the most inclusive of its kind on the art fair circuit. Along with the exhibitor booths (with participants from North America, Asia and Europe), there will be special collections on display during the three day event: OAF Curated Space | Relishing the Raw: Contemporary Artists Collecting Outsider Art, OAF Curated Space: The Hummingbird Paints Fragrant Songs: Sara Flores and Celia Vasquez Yui (co-curated by Brett Littman and the Shipibo Conibo Center), OAF Special Projects | Bogus Cinderella (organized by Laura Steward), and OAF Special Projects | From the Perspective of a Child Artworks from CMA’s Permanent Collection.

In addition to this weekend’s fair, NYC galleries that feature this genre have opened new shows and we’ve selected two of our favorites for the ‘Opening this Week’ and ‘Gallery Shows’ sections. Within these exhibits you’ll encounter people who really can’t be anything except artists because their impulse to create is so strong, it cancels out any other kind of life.

In Painting the Japanese Blues: Introducing Issei Nishimura, the Cavin-Morris Gallery presents a true artist, one who is consumed by the need to express his emotional landscape through images. These works, inspired by American blues music, draw viewers into a vibrant world of line and color that once seen, are never forgotten.

Janet Sobel and Pearl Blauvelt at Andrew Edlin Gallery are two solo shows from mid-century self-taught artists: one who helped change the course of post-war American culture, the other adding to the rich variety of outsider art we see today. Although Janet Sobel didn’t receive formal training in the arts, her observational skills and talent were more than enough to have her work presented at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery in the 1940s: first in a group show, later in a solo exhibit. It was there that Jackson Pollock saw her technique of drip painting, was inspired to start using it, but without giving consistent credit to her. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that articles and books began to acknowledge Sobel’s efforts with the format and how she influenced others. Pearl Blauvelt’s works have only been brought to the attention of the outsider art world in the last two decades, but it was clear from the beginning that her art possessed focus and direction in both subject matter and execution. Topics range from country scenes to itemized material goods, with written descriptions, all carefully rendered in pencil. Her unusual drawing perspectives often include exterior and interior renderings, as if objects were being seen in multiple dimensions and forms. They exemplify the inventive nature of outsider art, to be more complex and involved than their simple facades.