Published: October 21, 2014
BELMONT, CALIF. — The Wiegand Gallery, at Notre Dame de Namur University, is hosting the West Coast debut of four of the country’s most notable Outsider artists in “The Roots of the Spirit: Lonnie Holley, Mr Imagination, Charlie Lucas and Kevin Sampson,” on view through November 26. Curated by Martha Henry and Robert Poplack, director of the Wiegand, the exhibition sees the foursome’s work reunited for the first time since their controversial 2011 Venice Biennale showing.
“The Roots of the Spirit” includes works created while they were in Venice, as well as throughout their careers.
The genesis of “The Roots of the Spirit” goes back to 2011 when the four artists were invited to participate in the 54th Venice Biennale by the American Folk Art Museum in New York and Benetton in Treviso, Italy, to create large, site-specific installations at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. The inclusion of the four self-taught Outsider artists during the 2011 Biennale promised to be revolutionary because it offered the opportunity to exhibit within a broad international context.
Due to an unexpected loss of funding, the invitation was rescinded, but the artists — under the aegis of gallery director and curator Martha Henry who ultimately managed to secure a venue in an Eleventh Century garden — decided they would still attend.
Lonnie Holley, Mr Imagination (Gregory Warmack), Charlie Lucas (Tin Man) and Kevin Sampson have all achieved renown individually as self-taught African American artists. Notions of divine intervention and spiritual renewal are at the heart of much of the foursome’s work. It is art that honors ancestors as an antidote to death and private grief.
Viewing themselves as caretakers of the earth, the artists harvest the overflowing debris of contemporary civilization and transform it into art as a means of preserving the rescued materials to teach future generations.
The materials and methods place them squarely within the wider context of the international contemporary art world. Their use of assemblage, found object sculpture and installation invite comparisons to contemporary art practices dating back from the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
Their work can be found in many major American museum collections including: American Folk Art Museum, New York; Birmingham (Ala,) Museum of Art; American Visionary Museum, Baltimore; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; High Museum, Atlanta; and Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, among others.
The Wiegand Gallery is at 1500 Ralston Avenue.
For additional information, www.ndnu.edu/arts-events/wiegand-gallery or 650-508-3595.
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