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20 Apr 2017

Perspectives on Eugen Gabritschevsky


This evening presentation will present new research on the life and work of Eugen Gabritschevsky. Join scholars Anne Sauvagnargues, Kurt Johnson, and Valérie Rousseau as they discuss Gabritschevksy’s relationship to entomology, surrealism, the natural world, and other topics.

Anne Sauvagnargues, “Gabritchevsky’s Artmachine”

Eugen Gabrichevsky forces us to renew our conception of art brut beyond any binary dualism: madness versus normality, popular art versus high art. These categories no longer apply to Gabritchevsky’s oeuvre. His pictorial experimentation jumps over the modernist boundaries of realism and abstraction and shows that abstraction is really only a matter of threshold, anticipating the preoccupation of contemporary art. Being a world-renowned biologist at the forefront of research in genetics and molecular life before his breakdown, Gabritchevsky multiplies points of view and nonhuman perspectives, creating points of life more than points of view, and proposes an ecological, cosmic, and humorous system of multifold perspective, far away from renaissance. This presentation will argue that his painting plays with the boundaries of perception, matter, color, and molecule—making Gabritchevsky the meteorologist of our twentieth-century world history by bringing his tiny paintings to the ecological level of intramolecular perception, which begs the question: how would a fly, a virus, or an atom paint?

Kurt Johnson, “Parallel and Convergent Landscapes: The Existential Abyss, Entomological Metaphor, and the Dialectic of Science and Art in Gabritschevsky and Nabokov”

These two Russian emigres, both known for their science and art, starkly contrast in the ways they ultimately lived life (though the “divide” may be far less than it seems). This presentation will explore how each appears to have navigated the existential challenge of “being”—the multiple forms it took in their science and art, the entomological themes inevitably at play—but how they ended up, apparently, on two sides of a “consciousness divide” (one “happy,” one “bereft”).  Further, what do we know today in science that might help heal this historic divide between “factual realism” and “metaphorical/metaphysical realism,” and their play in our lives?


Anne Sauvagnargues is a professor of philosophy at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense. A specialist in aesthetics, contemporary arts, and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, she codirects the book series “Lignes d’art” with Fabienne Brugère for Presses universitaires de France. She is the author of numerous works, including Deleuze and Art (Bloomsbury, 2013), Artmachines: Deleuze, Guattari, Simondon (Edinburgh University Press, 2016), and Deleuze. L’empirisme transcendental (Presses universitaires de France, 2008; forthcoming with Edinburgh University Press).

Kurt Johnson is a scientist, comparative religionist, social activist, and former monastic. With a PhD in evolution, ecology, systematics, and comparative biology, plus extensive training in comparative religion and philosophy, he was associated professionally for twenty years with the American Museum of Natural History and also with the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York City. Dr. Johnson has published over 200 professional scientific articles and seven books on evolution and ecology. His book Nabokov’s Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius (coauthored with New York Times journalist Steve Coates) was a “ten best” book in science in 2000 at Booklist, Library Journal, the Washington Post, and picked as “Editor’s Choice for 1999” at the Seattle Times. The book’s Chinese translation received the 2016 Best Nature and Science Book Award from the Beijing News. In 2016, he authored with Stephen H. Blackwell Fine Lines: Vladimir Nabokov’s Scientific Art. The book was selected by Nature as a “Top 20 Book in Science for 2016.”

Valérie Rousseau, PhD, is Curator of Self-Taught Art and Art Brut at the American Folk Art Museum. Since 2013, she has curated exhibitions on artists from various countries, including the AAMC Award–winning When the Curtain Never Comes Down on performance art (2015); Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die on Ronald Lockett, Melvin Way, Native American effigies, and Brazilian ex-votos (2016); Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet (2015); and shows on Bill Traylor (2013) and William Van Genk (2014). The Director of Société des arts indisciplinés, Montreal, from 2001 to 2007, Rousseau built an archive on art practices emerging outside the art mainstream and organized exhibitions, notably Richard Greaves: Anarchitect (2005–07). Rousseau holds a PhD in art history and an MA in art theory, both from Université du Québec à Montréal, as well as an MA in anthropology from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. She is the author of the essays “Visionary Architectures” (The Alternative Guide to the Universe, Hayward Gallery, 2013), “Revealing Art Brut” (Culture & Musées, 2010), and Vestiges de l’indiscipline (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2007).


Public programs are supported in part by Joyce Berger Cowin, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, the Ford Foundation, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Just Folk: Marcy Carsey/Susan Baerwald, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


Image: Eugen Gabritschevsky (1893–1979), untitled, Haar, Germany, n.d., gouache on paper, 9 5/8 x 15 3/16 in., Collection abcd/Bruno Decharme. Photo by Cesar Decharme.

6:30 pm–8:30 pm

$8 members, students, and seniors; $10 non-members; free for students

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