The term “outsider art” was coined in the 1970s as an English translation of the term Art Brut, French modernist Jean Dubuffet’s (1901-1985) label for his huge personal collection of such art that he had starting in the 1930s. Much of the art in this category was produced by artists who were either mentally challenged or physically handicapped. Some of the artists did not even think of themselves as such, and created work purely for personal fulfillment, never intending to show in galleries or museums.
Another tendency in “outsider art” is that the work is usually created with little or no awareness or interest of other trends in art. The main difference between this art and so-called “naïve” or “primitive” art is that naïve or primitive artists remain in the mainstream of art, even if they fail to practice its style. They accept its subject, technique, and values because they hope for public recognition.
James Castle was born deaf in
The strength of Castle’s work comes from his dedication to his art. I hesitate to compare his work to any artists in mainstream 20th century art, except to point out that it compares favorably to works by artists such as Dubuffet, Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and some of the artists of the Arte Povera movement in
I think I prefer the term “visionary art” to describe outsider art. Here’s an excellent museum dedicated to the genre.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a large collection of Castle’s work on their website.
Featured Collection: Philadelphia Museum of Art