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PHOTO | BRUT: Collection Bruno Decharme & Compagnie

January 24, 2021–June 6, 2021
At the American Folk Art Museum
Lincoln Square, Manhattan

The exhibition PHOTO | BRUT is a continuation of the American Folk Art Museum’s commitment to champion the works of self-taught artists—this time with a focus on the ever-changing field of photography, the frontiers and accessibility of which expanded proportionally with the invention of portable and affordable cameras. It welcomes the substantial art brut photography collection of French filmmaker Bruno Decharme and speaks to Decharme’s subjective collecting activity that brought him—without the parameters of a historical framework—from one discovery to another. The exhibition is complemented by the museum’s holdings, as well as by artworks treasured by American collectors and public organizations.

To expose relationships between these various, inimitable artistic postures, PHOTO | BRUT is organized in four loose yet interconnected sections, probing themes of gender expansiveness, intimacy, image appropriation, and conjuring practices that seek connections to the imperceptible.

Reserve tickets: Admission is always free.

A 320-page catalog (English and French, 2019), published by Flammarion in collaboration with the American Folk Art Museum and abcd, is available at the Museum Shop. It includes contributions by by Bruno Decharme, Valérie Rousseau, Barbara Safarova, Michel Thévoz, Sam Stourdzé, Camille Paulhan, Brian Wallis, Phillip March Jones, Lucienne Peiry, and Richard-Max Tremblay.

With works by Horst Ademeit, Steve Ashby, Morton Bartlett, Marcel Bascoulard, John Brill, Felipe Jesus Consalvos, Jesuys Crystiano, Henry Darger, John Devlin, Pepe Gaitán, Pietro Ghizzardi, Lee Godie, Yohann Goetzmann, Kazuo Handa, Marian Henel, Mark Hogancamp, Paul Humphrey, Zdeněk Košek, Alexander Lobanov, Tomasz Machciński, Albert Moser, Norma Oliver, Luboš Plný, Ilmari Salminen, Valentin Simankov, Ichiwo Sugino, Leopold Strobl, Elke Tangeten, Dominique Théate, Miroslav Tichý, Type 42, Zorro, Elisabeth Van Vyve, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, August Walla, Frédéric, spirit photographers, UFOs and aliens unidentified photographers, and 19th and 20th Century unidentified artists.

Curators: Valérie Rousseau, PhD, Senior Curator, and Bruno Decharme in collaboration with Barbara Safarova, Sam Stourdzé, and Paula Aisemberg.

Please note that some of the content of this exhibition may not be suitable for all audiences.


Lee Godie (1908, Chicago, Illinois⁠ — 1994, Plato Center, Illinois; Untitled; c. 1980⁠; Gelatin silver print (from photo booth); 5 x 3 3/4 in.; Collection John and Teenuh Foster; Photo courtesy John and Teenuh Foster. ⁠

Steve Ashby (1904, Delaplane, Virginia, United States—1980, Delaplane, Virginia, United States); Untitled; n.d.; Wood, magazine clippings, lace, and metal 10 3/8 x 5 5/8 x 2 5/8 in.; Collection of Robert A. Roth Photo by John Faier.

Ichiwo Sugino (1965, Japan. Lives in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan). Untitled (the artist’s metamorphoses posted on Instagram), 2015 and later. Forty-two digital photographs. Photos courtesy of artist. © Ichiwo Sugino.

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein (1910, Marinette, WI–1983, Milwaukee, WI); untitled; c. 1940s; 35mm transparency; 1 3/8 x 7/8 in.; © 2019 Lewis B. Greenblatt; John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI. Photo courtesy of Lewis B. Greenblatt.

Henry Darger (1892, Chicago, Illinois, United States—1973, Chicago, Illinois, United States); Untitled (“These Little Children…”), Mid-twentieth century. Hand-tinted photograph and ink on cardboard7 x 9 in. American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of Kiyoko Lerner, 2003.7.60. © 2021 Kiyoko Lerner

Elke Tangeten (1968, Waimes,Belgium); Untitled, 2013. Embroidery on chromolithograph adhered to paper, 15 3/4 x 11 3/4 in. Collection Bruno Decharme and Antoine de Galbert. Photo by A. Nandrin, La “S” Grand Atelier. © La “S” Grand Atelier, Vielsalm B.

Partners and Lenders

This exhibition is co-produced by the American Folk Art Museum, abcd, and the Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles. We would like to thank the lenders for their precious collaboration: Barry Sloane Collection, Edward V. Blanchard Jr., Eileen and Michael Cohen, Bruno Decharme, Antoine de Galbert, John and Teenuh Foster, Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Marion Harris, Institut Métapsychique International, Paris, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Galerie Lumière des roses, Montreuil, Kevin O’Rourke, Robert A. Roth, Sacks Family Collection, Julie Saul Gallery, JoAnn Seagren and Scott H. Lang, and Ichiwo Sugino.

This exhibition is supported in part by the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, the Stacy C. Hollander Fund for Exhibitions, the William Talbott Hillman Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the Council for Self-Taught Art.

"Arrives just in time to humble and excite."
– Roberta Smith, The New York Times
"Through a glass, darkly and brightly."
– Betsy Pochoda, The Magazine Antiques
"Four hundred works by 40 artists are presented in four sections: gender expansiveness, intimacy, image appropriation, and conjuring practices."
– Elena Claravino, Air Mail
"An exhibition to kick off the new decade."
– Tatty Martin, RISE ART
"The collection offers a negative or inverse version of photography, and fine art photography in particular. It is the accursed share, the banished supplement without which various uses of the medium cannot be fully understood."
– Lyle Rexer, The Brooklyn Rail