Celebrating its 25th year here in NYC, the annual Outsider Art Fair opened on Thursday at the Metropolitan Pavilion, with some 65 exhibitors showing hundreds of pieces from artists without any formal training. As Jean Dubuffet put it, in his definition of art brut: "These artists derive everything...from their own depths, and not from the conventions of classical or fashionable art."
The Metropolitan Pavilion is always a bit of a disappointingly generic space, but the art on display this year is anything but. In fact, the 2017 fair feels fresher and more vital than in the recent past, with lots of new work by familiar favorites, and plenty of new artists in the mix as well.
Among the highlights are new and as-usual raw sculptural pieces and paintings by Greg Haberny; new photographs by Mark Hogancamp (who you may know from the documentary Marwencol), who's now using full-size mannequins in his set pieces; Jana Paleckova's surrealistic "family portraits," for which the artist cleverly alters vintage photographs; Judy Chartrand's Fuck! bowl (filled with roaches) and bizarre cans of soup; the often amusing and sometimes raunchy "vernacular" (aka: found) photographs at the Winter Works on Paper booth; and Joseph Kurhajec's creepy nail-head totems.
Like many cultural events and institutions, the Outsider Art Fair grappled with how to react to the nightmare of Trump's inauguration. Rather than shut down Friday in protest, organizers instead will stage a piece called "The Barack Obama Readings" all weekend, during which invited guests (and, in exchange for free admission, regular attendees) will read parts from more than 50 passages delivered or written by the 44th President over the course of his two terms.
The Outsider Art Fair is held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and tomorrow, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $20.