Don’t try to find outsider art inside the Art Institute of Chicago. You might eventually locate the folk art gallery (secreted in a passage off a staircase) but will be certainly disappointed by the scanty and un-entertaining art it holds. You must meet the folk on Milwaukee Avenue, at Intuit Gallery.
Outsider art never felt outside of where I was. “Brut” has been the natural clacking tongue of images — of teenagers making saucy jokes in magazine collage, of loose doodle maps penciled out by introverts, of all the secret impulsive art drawn aboard all the buses of Chicago each day (only some of which could ever be Wesley Willis’). It must be almost all art made and consumed.
I recognize it instantaneously and with joy. From here, with the Volk, the insider art is the anomaly (with its combed lines and arcane bloviations). Outsider art shepherds in all the folk, not just the crazy or those with other ways certifiable authentic naivete. In this weird world, who can be familiar enough to get all the way “inside”?
The images are magical: they are supposed to do something. The images have a destiny. It is not always clear why the images have appeared or what they want. They have forced themselves out through a person, and it would seem they’re not done traveling somewhere, back and forth across worlds.
The artist may imagine they have saddled their works as “therapy,” but then, panting, they will recognize they are the ones running, blindered and whipped. And we may smirk at the artist’s contortions to catch the message (their advanced finger-painting technique), at the clarity of their subjection to their images (how charming the enslavement of Henry Darger to his world), and how we can see through the screen of their cute common media to the place where gods live. The images burn out from their hearts, lingering on the world a few human lifetimes like grey coals.
All art is up now at Intuit Gallery, 756 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL