May 30, 2008

The tip of a psychic iceberg at MoMA

In the NY Times Ken Johnson declares that "Glossolalia: Languages of Drawing” is the most exciting exhibition of drawings the Museum of Modern Art has produced in years. "Organized by Connie Butler, the museum’s chief curator of drawings, it presents a delightfully unpredictable mix of about 100 works by two distinct groups: self-taught outsider artists and idiosyncratic but conventionally trained professionals, many of whom have been inspired by outsider art....The show does not distinguish between the two in either the labeling or the arrangement. Outsiders like Henry Darger, James Castle and Bill Traylor are interspersed among insiders like Louise Bourgeois, H. C. Westerman and Jim Shaw. What links all the artists is the drive to work primarily from internal, private sources of inspiration. The word glossolalia, which means speaking in tongues, makes this point succinctly. It suggests that each artist, rather than adopting a familiar, academically certified style has created a unique language with which to express his or her own experience. Unlike real glossolalia, which is typically incomprehensible, most of the drawings Ms. Butler has selected (all from the museum’s permanent collection) are intelligibly representational. Still, there is a more or less obscurely personal dimension in most pieces. Often you have the feeling of seeing just the tip of a psychic iceberg. It’s the opposite of Frank Stella, who famously said of his works, 'What you see is what you see.'" Read more.

"Glossolalia: Languages of Drawing," curated by Connie Butler. Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through July 7.

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