April 2 2009 5 02 /04 /April /2009 13:00
The Edlin Gallery at the Salon du Dessin Contemporain chose to expose, with the famous Henry Darger, two other outsider artists. Their works, related to Art Brut, have such an intense authenticity that we considered important to listen to Mr Edlin's explanations...
So let’s talk about Charles Steffen
Here we have two drawings by Charles Steffen, whom I also represent. He passed away in 1995, and when he was a young man, in the middle of his first year in art school, he became ill, schizophrenic. So he spent twelve years in the hospital. When he got out he was unable to work, so he lived with his mother. But he did these drawings every day, on wrapping papers. There are sort of grotesque and beautiful in the same time. And what is also very interesting is these texts he wrote next to the figures represented, he talks so unself-consciously about his life and his art, there is something very compelling and pure about it. You get a sense that he was not doing his work for an audience, but just for himself. And it’s because his way of expression, both in the texts and in the figures, is so genuine and authentic that people like it so much and feel close to it.
He usually did portraits ?
Yes, it was his main interest. He was often drawing nude. And since he spent only half a year in the art school, he would sometime write on his drawings the regretted he was unable to attend classes in the Art Institute of Chicago. He thought they would be better if he would have gone to those nude classes, to have some training. I personally disagree with that, I think that would have made him possibly more like everyone else. Unfortunately, all the works he did before 1989 were destroyed. He was a smoker, and his room was full of the wrapping papers. So his mother and sister got afraid he would burn down the house and they were destroyed. After he died, his nephew save the last 6 years of work, which are still over a 1000 drawings. Today, the quality of his work is highly recognized, museums like the Withney are interested in it.
There is here another outsider artist, George Widener, could you explain to us his work ?
George Widener is an amazing artist , and I believe this is the first time his work has been seen in Paris. He is a savant, which means that he has a very special facility with dates and numbers. So, these pieces are an elaborated system of communication as a series of numbers linked with dates. The main idea is that possibly a futurstic machine i would be able to read it.
The medium also makes it unique : they are drawn on napkins, that he stains with tea, so ihey look like old parchments. The proper drawing is in ink.
So he is a contemporary artist, living now in America ?
He is a self taught artist, 47 years old, and he lives in North Carolina. He has emerged in the Art Brut world a sort of a revelation. His work was for the first time acknowledge about 5 or 6 years ago at the Outsider Art Fair by Henry Boxer, a dealer in London who discovered and sold his creations. Each year he brings the works to this Art fair and sells them all. Most of it before the show even starts, to his collectors or other dealers. So Henry and I are interested in helping George’s audience to expand internationally. So we have bought this work to fairs, today in this one, and next month in Brussels for Art Brussels, and I am much exited about it.
Does he have other projects ?
Well he continues with drawings, he has other things he works on, like for instance the Titanic. He also creates plan for futuristic cities. I think he is a very important artist, and i am certain the contemporary art world will embrace his work as the Art Brut world did.
What do you think about the works showcased in this fair, in relation to the contemporary drawing world, is it significant?
I think this is a very nice fair, apart from the cold. [I must confess I am freezing, it was really unexpected. I mean I had to buy this morning an electric heater, it's a very original way to welcome art dealers …]
But as a lot of fair, some galleries display more special works than others, but generally there is a lot of interesting works. I particularly like the one of the Gallery Objets Trouvés, my friend Christian Berst. He has been some kind of a pioneers showing really authentic Art Brut in Paris for the last several years. We worked together on several projects; in fact he did a solo exhibition of Charles Stephen that was tremendously successful.
Okay... thank you very much, good luck for the rest of the fair.
[Visuals. Above : Charles Steffen, Seated Nude with Blonde Hair, 49 " x 30 ", colored pencil on brown wrapping paper. Courtesy the Edlin Gallery. George Widener_Megalopolis 2143, Rare Twins, 2008, ink & posterpaint on paper18 x 28 inches. Courtesy the Edlin Gallery]