Critic’s Notebook: The Outsider Fair Once More Confirms That Art Is Everywhere


SHRINE Scott Ogden, the young owner of this small Lower East Side gallery, is unusual these days for his all-outsider program. For the fair, he has recreated from photographs the chaotic studio-bedroom of the painter Mose Tolliver, another southern outsider, but the main event are two walls covered by Tolliver’s canvases and the slightly pneumatic figures and creatures that inhabit them.


“Untitled” by Susan Te Kahurangi King, 1967, graphite on paper. She communicated through her drawings, a mashup of cartoon and pop culture characters. Credit Andrew Edlin Gallery

CHRIS BYRNE This booth features numerous drawings — the most impressive without color — by Susan Te Kahurangi King, an autistic artist from New Zealand known for her turbulent mash-ups of pop-culture (toys, cartoon characters, labels). They are accompanied by a vitrine holding a sampling of an archive about Ms. King, started by her grandmother and continued by her sister Petita Cole, a project perhaps unprecedented in the history of outsider art that Mr. Byrne calls Boswellian.

PHYLLIS STIGLIANO ART PROJECTS The small, often harrowing paintings on paper of Mary F. Whitfield are history refusing to die. Many depict lynchings that the artist, who was born in 1947, heard about while growing up black in the South. Works like “Oh Momma Oh Poppa” from 2002 are studies in grief, shock and unmitigated viciousness, softened yet emotionally intensified by their extraordinary play of dark colors splintered by singing hues.


Pauline Simon’s “Farmers,” circa 1970, a heated-up version of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” Credit Karen Lennox Gallery

KAREN LENNOX GALLERY The Hairy Who artists of Chicago are well known for discovering outsider artists. The least known of these may be Pauline Simon (1884-1976), who ran her husband’s dental office until his death, at which point she took up painting. “The Farmers,” from around 1970s might be seen as a heated-up version of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” Simon sought guidance from Don Baum, director of the Hyde Park Art Center, where the Hairy Who first exhibited. He is reported to have said, “Don’t teach her anything.”

ZQ Here you’ll find a seductive introduction to the varied activities of Anne Grgrich (born 1961) in the form of paintings, embroideries, collages and assembled books. Faces are the primary subject; the main look is updated, slightly raunchy Byzantine.

NORMAN BROSTERMAN Every Outside Art Fair contains something you’ve never dreamed existed, a humbling revelation that art is everywhere. In 2018 it is a jaw-dropping display of baskets made of rattan and wire by Native American inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary at Anamosa in the 1930s. With their mix of styles — indigenous, Art Deco, Classical Greek — they indicate the relentless flux of visual culture. Wonders, truly, never cease.

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