Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) inadvertently opened the doors of the art world for artists who were basically self-taught and whose art didn’t follow academic rules when he received recognition within the Parisian avant-garde. This, and the attention that tribal/African art was getting, were the main factors that paved the way towards today’s appreciation of this type of art.
Over the years art critics, scholars and collectors debated over the term to describe it. The extensive bibliography produced as a result is a clear indication of how difficult it has been to agree on the best term to describe accurately the diversity of these artists and their work. The first terms used were Primitive and Naïve, which were both applied to Rousseau’s art, and not always in a positive way. It has also been addressed as Popular or Folk Art, in a long standing tradition in American Art. Others terms were Visionay and Intuitive, perhaps the two that would describe better this type of art since both highlight the creative process, perhaps the only unifying factor in these myriad of artists. Later on art critics proposed Raw Art or Outsider Art, emphasizing the fact that they existed and operated ‘outside’ of the traditional system of galleries and museums.
This can be considered as an attitude of the past since there are galleries specialized in this type of art, and it has found its way into major museums, and there are even museums devoted to this type of art such as the Museum of American Folk Art, New York. Important private collectors also followed the trend. We should also mention the presentation of many exhibitions, including solo shows of individual artists as well as collective exhibitions. An important indicator of the interest in this type of art is the publications of specialized books about these artists, and also about the theme in general. The awareness about this type of art has made possible the existence of an international quarterly specialized magazine, Raw Vision, which systematically publishes scholarly essays on the subject.
This timely exhibit reflects an interest that is becoming more widespread, as witnessed by the current show of Jamaican Intuitive Art at the Frost Museum, and the encyclopedic exhibit of Museo del Barrio (to which our gallery has lent several Jamaican works).
Outside the Box intends to present a group of Caribbean artists whose vision took them to make art outside the ‘established’ parameters and to produce art as part of their daily life. Our intention with this exhibition is to show the variety of artists and their work, their common elements but also the individuality that distinguishes each one of them.
Instead of the usual national division the exhibition has been mapped by themes, showing that all these artists share similar viewpoints despite the fact that they are coming from different countries. The common themes are occurrences in daily life, landscapes, fantastic visions, and of course, religious concerns. Formally a unifying element in all these pieces is its freshness, without concern for constricting rules such as perspective, composition, use of colors, or for the opinion of others who might direct their art otherwise. These artists are offering an uninhibited view of the world that surrounds them, creating exuberant pieces that record their every day existence. Through their eyes we can travel to remote locations or breathe life into their dreams and visions.