“Earl Cunningham’s America,” curated by Virginia Mecklenburg. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Through Nov. 4. In the Washington Post, Blake Gopnik reports: “Outsider art is truly peculiar stuff. In some ways, it breaks the rules: It looks coarse and eccentric and up to its own thing. On the other hand, it often knows that’s precisely how it’s supposed to look — as though there are certain fixed conventions to outsiderdom, which it intends to follow to the letter….Cunningham’s pictures have the same get-a-load-of-this bravado that his stories must have had, as though the artist dares you to object to anything he puts in front of you. But as you look at them, you realize Cunningham’s pictures have something else in common with a storyteller’s tales: Each one may be full of novel fancies, but they’re all built around one single way of showing off. In their own way, on their own terms, they have a deeply conservative take on how surprise should work.” Read more.
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