Art Brut's Not Dead


The announced death of Art Brut -- whether deemed coterminus with the life of its early theorizer Jean Dubuffet, extinguished by the use of neuroleptics, or lethally problematized by contemporary contestations of its essentialist premises -- has put organization abcd (art brut connaissance & diffusion) on the defensive. The French foundation bases its activities around film-maker Bruno Decharme's extrordinary collection of over 2000 works that he feels were created free from the influence of 'cultural art,' and without concern for contact with an audience. The collection (of which several hundred images can be viewed online) is largely comprised of works by European psychiatric patients. While several of the site's texts seek to determine and articulate a functional definition for Art Brut in the 21st century, others provide a concise history of European modernism's relationship to the 'art of the insane' and the political struggle within the Paris Surrealists over Dubuffet's fascination with 'anti-cultural' art. -- Johanna Fateman