(New York, NY, August 26, 2019) The American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) (2 Lincoln Sq., Columbus Ave. at W. 65th St.) has opened a new gallery that will display a rotating selection of works from its 8,500-piece collection. The new space, commemorated during the museum’s thirtieth anniversary at its Lincoln Square location, is intended to offer a snapshot of AFAM’s effort over its nearly sixty-year history to advance art by the self-taught across time and place. The first exhibition in the new gallery is curated by Dr. Valérie Rousseau, AFAM’s senior curator and curator of self-taught art & art brut, and AFAM’s former chief curator, Stacy C. Hollander. This inaugural exhibition is funded through the generosity of Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and the Greenberg Foundation.
“Our new gallery encourages learning and engagement with many of the best examples of self-taught art, revealing a diverse and powerful artistic narrative,” said Jason T. Busch, director of AFAM. “As the museum reaches the milestone of nearly sixty years in existence, it is vital to activate our collection, and show that our commitment to art emerging outside the mainstream is as strong as ever.”
“Self-taught artists include those who created as a result of a generational system such as master to apprentice, encoding a strong cultural legacy,” adds Dr. Rousseau. “Others, including twentieth and twenty-first century masters such as James Castle and Henry Darger, demonstrate unconventional paths to creativity. The American Folk Art Museum embraces the entire spectrum of self-taught genius, and works to expand our knowledge of visual expression.”
Among the works in the new gallery are:
The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks (1780-1849). Hicks, a Quaker minister and ornamental painter, illustrated the theme of the Peaceable Kingdom described in Isaiah 11. The work shows the harmony among natural enemies, a reflection of the artist’s feelings over the rift within the Society of Friends.
Nenuphars/Paix Christi by Aloïse Corbaz (1886─1964). The Swiss-born Corbaz worked for a time as a nanny for German Emperor Wilhelm II, with whom she fell secretly in love. This work, done years later while Corbaz was living in a psychiatric hospital, shows memories of the royal court as well as references to the birth of the world from a primordial swamp.
Sgraffito Plate with Horse and Rider by John Neis (1785─1867). One of many examples of the museum’s extensive collection of Germanic culture in America, this earthenware plate shows a rider on a horse rather than a well-known military figure. The plate is inscribed: “I have ridden many hours and day and yet no girl I am able to have.”
Colonel Jack F Evans by Henry Darger (1892─1973). Colonel Evans is the guardian of the Vivian Girls, the subject of Darger’s multiple-volume saga titled The Story of the Vivian Girls in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Darger’s art is an extension of his writing, not an illustration of it, and it borrows from historic newspaper accounts of war, Catholic liturgy, and classic and popular literature, among other sources.
Whig Rose and Trailing Vine Quilt, artist unidentified. This is an example of an appliqué quilt from c. 1860 in the Whig Rose pattern, which gained popularity during the period of the Whig political party’s tenure between 1833 and 1856. The color combination of red, green, and white, prevalent in the mid-eighteenth century, was also influenced by the Pennsylvania Germans.
Untitled by Minnie Evans (1892─1987). Raised by her grandmother in the American South, Evans first started to draw after a voice in a dream asked “Why don’t you draw or die?” That, combined with an intense interest in God, mythology, and historical subjects, led her to create abstract works, often with human elements like faces and eyes. Her paintings and drawings feature dense floral landscapes populated with angels, devils, serpents, and more.
The new gallery is sponsored in part by Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser and the Greenberg Foundation.
About the American Folk Art Museum
Founded in 1961, the American Folk Art Museum is the premier institution devoted to the aesthetic appreciation of historic folk art and creative expressions of contemporary self-taught artists from the United States and abroad. Now celebrating the thirtieth anniversary in its Lincoln Square location, the museum preserves, conserves, and interprets a comprehensive collection of the highest quality, with objects dating from the eighteenth century to the present.