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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 academically untrained 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.

PHOTO | BRUT provides the first international glimpse into this fecund territory, which has received little attention until recent years. This exhibition welcomes the substantial art brut photography collection of French filmmaker Bruno Decharme, which has already expanded and diversified since its presentation at the Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles in 2019. The current selection 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.

The exhibition unites more than four hundred early and recent works by forty artists—some recently unveiled, discovered postmortem, or on occasion brought into dialogue with contemporary art, as works by Marcel Bascoulard and Lee Godie have been. This selection, typical of the heterogeneous typology of photography, encompasses a wide spectrum of creations: Aside from traditional photographs, it also gathers collages made from printed materials, artworks that relied on the photographic process, and photographs that were never developed, such as slides and digital images.

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. These profound bodies of work are often process-based, subversive, and pluridisciplinary. As art historian Michel Thévoz observes, these creators “use the camera to play against type, by making their daily life an unreality or making their chimeras hyperreal. They use photography in spite of or beyond its presumptive objectivity, to imbue fantasy with the stamp of realism or, inversely, to sublimate an ordinary subject.”

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

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.

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 Bruno Decharme, Phillip March Jones, Camille Paulhan, Valérie Rousseau, Barbara Safarova, Sam Stourdzé, Michel Thévoz, Brian Wallis, 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.


Images: 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.

Artist unidentified; untitled (spirit photograph); August 5, 1941; silver print; 4 5/8 x 3 1/2 in.; Collection of the Institut métapsychique international, Paris. Photo by Coll. IMI/Agence martienne.

Lee Godie (1908, Chicago, Illinois, United States–1994, Plato Center, Illinois), untitled, n.d., ink and silver print (from photo booth) on paper, 26 x 20 1/8 in., Collection Bruno Decharme. Photo by Ilan Weiss.

Zorro (artist unidentified, 20th century), untitled, 1967, chromogenic color prints, 5 x 3 5/8 in., Collection Bruno Decharme. Photo by Bruno Decharme.

Norma Oliver (1893–1979, United States); Dedicated with Loving Consideration to Joseph Korpanty by The Jansen Group; between 1948 and 1950; gelatin silver print, colored pencil on paper, and collaged typed inscriptions; drawing: 10 5/8 x 8 1/4 in., print: 4 x 2 7/8 in.; Collection Bruno Decharme. Photo by Ilan Weiss.

Steve Ashby (1904–1980, Delaplane, Virginia, United States); untitled; n.d.; wood, magazine clipping, fabric, paint, plastic, and metal; 10 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 5 in.; Collection of Robert A. Roth. Photo by John Faier.

Henry Darger (1892–1973, Chicago, Illinois, United States); untitled (“These Little Children. . . ”); mid-twentieth century; hand-tinted photograph and ink on cardboard; 7 x 9 in.; American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of Kiyoko Lerner, 2003.7.60; © Kiyoko Lerner. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Morton Bartlett (1909, Chicago, Illinois, United States–1992, Boston, Massachusetts, United States); untitled (Girl Reading); c. 1955; 35mm transparency; Barry Sloane Collection, Los Angeles; © The Bartlett Project, LLC. Photo courtesy of the Bartlett Project, LLC. 

Marcel Bascoulard (1913, Vallenay, France–1978, Asnières- lès-Bourges, France), untitled, around 1970, gelatin silver prints, 5 1/8 x 3 3/8 in, Collection Bruno Decharme. Photo by Bruno Decharme.

Leopold Strobl (1960, Mistelbach, Austria), untitled, 2015, pencil and colored pencil on newsprint clipping adhered to paper, 2 5/8 x 3 5/8 in., Collection Bruno Decharme, © Galerie Gugging. Photo by Ilan Weiss. 

Artist unidentified (19th century), untitled (double-sided), 1870s, photomontage of gelatin silver prints, 11 1/2 x 9 1/2 in., Collection Bruno Decharme. Photo by Illan Weiss.


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.