by JC Gonzo
Art Brut – literally translating from French to “Raw Art” or “Rough Art” – categorizes work created outside certain confounds of culture, society and the art world. The concept was coined by artist and low-art proponent Jean Dubuffet, who began his own collection of outsider art in the late 40’s. Along with Andre Breton and a few others, he formed the Compagnie de l’Art Brut. The collection stands as a museum in Switzerland, inaugurated in 1976, housing over 60,000 works from 1,000 creators.
Usually hailing from the mentally insane, imprisoned, or children, Art Brut sparks debates on genuine and creative freedom. Whether or not the work’s authenticity stands on purer ground, it serves a fascinating window into differently-informed work. The selections featured below are from the Collection de L’Art Brut website catalogue.
Let us begin with French spiritualist, Jeanne Tripier (1869-1944). Having lead a relatively simple life of retail work and motherhood, Tripier became involved with spiritualism at the age of 58. She was hospitalized in 1934 for “chronic psychosis, logorrhea and megalomania” and denied her identity, assuming the channeled personas of Joan of Arc and Joséphine de Beauharnais. Spirits and prophetic visions spurred her work, which included fabric pieces as well as drawings crafted from hair dye, drugs, and nail polish.
Born deaf and mute due to a series of disabilities, Josef Hofer (1945) explores the male figure and human form with untamed capacity, working feverishly on a daily basis in complete silence. Until the age of 37, Hofer spent his life in relative solitude in Upper Austria. He was relocated with his brother upon the death of his father to Kirschlag where he attended a day clinic. In 1997 his drawings caught the eye of art historian Elisabeth Telsnig, who presented the work to the Collection de L’Art Brut. He currently lives under the care of Lebenshilfe Oberösterreich in Ried, Austria.
Oswald Tschirtner (1920-2007), also known as O.T., was committed to Klosterneuburg Hospital after WWII of which he’d been drafted into by the German Army. He began to draw under the hospital’s instruction, creating minimalist and reductive figures with little to no detail. In 1981 he was moved into the Haus der Künstler (House of Artists), a faction of the hospital to house artistically inclined patients to focus on their practice.
[Note: This article’s featured image is also an Oswald Tschirtner piece.]