Renaldo Kuhler (1931–2013). (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

 Now in its 28th year, the Outsider Art Fair kicks off a season of New York fairs, with the Winter Show following closely behind and the ADAA Art Show taking place next month.

The Outsider Art Fair (OAF) exists to champion artwork by those working outside of cultural norms, whether self taught, disabled in some capacity, incarcerated, or otherwise. French artist Jean Dubuffet coined the term Art Brut in 1947 as relating to the field, saying that it refers to “works produced by persons unscathed by artistic culture, where mimicry plays little or no part (contrary to the activities of intellectuals). These artists derive everything…from their own depths, and not from the conventions of classical or fashionable art.” By and large, these artists find themselves on the “outside” of whatever fabricated world that art and arts education claims dominion over.

The Outsider Art Fair is on view at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, through Sunday, January 19, 2020.

To prepare you for the weekend, here is a rundown of what to expect at the OAF.

Indigo Arts Gallery – Philadelphia, PA, Booth C17

Showing a diverse range of international artists, Indigo Arts Gallery presents a cohesive and dynamic booth at this year’s fair. Artists from Africa, the Carribean, and Latin America appear alongside each other, forming a dialogue between cultures through a visual tapestry.

 Sculptors represented include Cuban artist Leandro Gomez Quintero (b. 1976), who creates lightweight automobile sculptures out of recycled material and received recognition in the New York Times last October, as well as Mozambique’s Dino (aka Camordino Mustafá Jetha, b. 1977), who focuses on the characteristic folk art form of Santo Damásio called Psikelekedana.

Dino (aka Camordino Mustafá Jetha, b. 1977). (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

 This regional tradition involves carving a type of softwood from a cashew tree. In addition to these sculptures, the gallery is showing vibrant paintings and drawings by the Belgian Congo Colony (1940s–1960), Damian Valdes Dilla (b. 1970), Gerard Fortune (who is unsure of the year of his own birth), Kamante Gatura (1912–1985), and many others.

Belgium Congo Colony, 1940s–1960. (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

Project Onward – South Side Chicago, IL, Booth C8

Project Onward is a nonprofit art gallery based in Chicago, who offer studio space and materials to 50 local artists who have mental and developmental disabilities. They have selected three artists for the OAF that work cohesively together in palette and style. Tony Davis (b. 1960) grew up in a mega housing project by Chicago’s Housing Authority called “ALBA” and did not start making art until later in his life. His graphic technique illustrates street life from the ‘70s and ‘80s, blending fiction with reality.


Tony Davis (b. 1960). (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

Michael Smith (b. 1984). (Photo:Clanci Jo Conover)

Working primarily with colored pencils and pastels, Michael Smith (b. 1984) draws inspiration from vintage fashion design, his drawings taking a special approach to the conception of fashion and form.

 A newer addition to the Project Onward roster is Luke Shemroske, an enigma in his approach – he hates creating art but simultaneously finds the process irresistible. His work falls in line with Federico Garcia Lorca’s idea of duende, representing a dance with death, an awareness of it.


Yukiko Koide Presents – Tokyo, Japan, Booth A6

Tokyo based gallery Yukiko Koide Presents has participated in the OAF 15 times since its conception. This year’s booth presents a number of works on paper as well as works created from paper. Three consecutive works by Yuichiro Ukai (b. 1995) take up one wall, pulling in visitors with the numerous characters amidst a chaotic landscape.

Yuichiro Ukai (b. 1995). (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

Ukai, who is autistic, has only been working in art since 2014, and his drawings on view are some of his most recent creations. Characters from anime, manga, and historic woodblock prints appear across each drawing, along with his favorite figures that he draws freehand: dinosaurs. Popular Japanese children’s characters like Anpanman and his friends. Other artists on view include Giuseppe Iacopetta (b. 1943) who uses paper as a medium, graphic text illustrator Yoshiyasu Hirano (b. 1980), and more.


Graham Shay 1857 –  New York, NY, Booth D5

Presenting a single artist show is Graham Shay 1857, with large scale paintings from the late Robert Kippur (1944-2015). These selections from the artist’s oeuvre were executed at the beginning of his career, after he moved to New York in the 1980s. Kippur dealt with crippling anxiety his whole life, and relocated from San Francisco to sink into isolation and cut himself off from friends and family. He began painting his dreams, visions, and feelings at the suggestion of his therapist as a way to cope with his internal torment.

Robert Kippur (1944–2015) (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

 Kippur’s early paintings show the phases of his development as an artist, wherein he created flat yet vibrant imagery from is own psyche. As he continued painting, his work became increasingly impastoed, with paint layering up to one inch from the canvas. This contrast between early and later work can be seen in the booth – with one vertical painting assuming the beginnings of an impasto approach, while the others are indicative of his developing fledgling style.


Jennifer Lauren Gallery – Manchester, UK

Private gallerist Jennifer Lauren is showing an array of artists hailing from Europe and Japan.

The detailed pencil drawings of Austrian illustrator Leonhard Fink (b. 1982) appear beside playful felt dolls by Makoto Okawa (1976–2016), a self taught artist from Japan. These dolls, called “Makoots” are unique figures, each taking on their own facial expressions and colors that reflect the mood of the maker – happy or sad, angry or pleased.

Leonhard Fink (b. 1982) and Makoto Okawa (1976–2016). (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

Likewise, England’s Roy Collinson’s (1946–?) guileless scenes of crayon and colored pencil afforded him an outlet to express past memories. These works are complemented by Shinichi Sawada’s (b. 1982) spiky sculptures, each possessing thorns that are carefully applied to each piece by the artist. The meaning of these thorns is a mystery, as Sawada is autistic with little means of communication, so the interpretation is left up to the viewer.


Arushi Arts – New Delhi, India, Booth D13

 Representing Indian artists is Arushi Arts, a New Delhi based gallery with locations in London and Los Angeles. With their booth, they chose to show artists and traditions common in various regions of India that do not typically receive acclaim in the fine art world, or even attention nationally. One wall is dedicated to the artist Baua Devi (b. Late 1940s), who carries on the legacy of Madhubani painting, an ancient folk art from the Bihar area that is characterized by captivating geometric patterns. Also on view is Warli Art, a form of tribal painting developed in Maharashtra that is very popular in the region but virtually undiscussed outside of India.

Baua Devi (b. 1940’s). (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

 In the same vein, works by New Kangra School artists are included in the exhibition. These painters study to recreate the tradition of courtly miniature painting in the region, carrying it on for future generations to learn.

New Kangra School. (Photo: Clanci Jo Conover)

Outsider art is such an eccentric field. It possesses a level of duality where each artist has a unique approach in their own right. Large names in the genre like Bill Traylor can be found at Fleisher/Ollman, Carl Hammer Gallery is showing photographs by Eugene von Brunchenhein and pencil drawings by Frank Jones, and the industry leader Ricco/Maresca has a fine selection of outsider works, including drawings by the natural history illustrator Renaldo Kuhler.

 The artists represented across the fair have diverse backgrounds, with no two stories alike – probably a large part of what draws people into Art Brut.

The Outsider Art Fair is on view at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, through Sunday, January 19, 2020.