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Eavesdroppers: Vernacular & Brut Photography

Outsider Art Fair New York 2021


In partnership with the American Folk Art Museum

How have self-taught artists used photographic processes to expose new relationships to the world and sublimate ordinary subjects? How has the camera been a tool for process-based, subversive work across this ever-evolving field? Joined by Valérie Rousseau, Bruno Decharme, John Foster, and Barbara Safarova in virtual dialogue. Curators and collectors will reflect on the heterogeneous typology of self-taught photography and this fecund mode of art-making. The program is occurring in conjunction with the exhibition PHOTO | BRUT: Collection Bruno Decharme & Compagnie, on view at the American Folk Art Museum.

About the Panel
Valérie Rousseau, PhD, is Senior Curator at the American Folk Art Museum in New York. Among the exhibitions she curated are the AAMC Award–winning When the Curtain Never Comes Down on performance art (2015), Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet (2015), and shows on Paa Joe (2019), William Van Genk (2014), Bill Traylor (2013), art brut photography (2019, 2021), and self-taught literature (2018). She authored essays on arts emerging outside the art mainstream, from an international perspective, notably "The Fate of Self-Taught Art" (The Brooklyn Rail, 2018), "Visionary Architectures" (Hayward Gallery, 2013), "Revealing Art Brut" (Culture & Musées, 2010).

After studying philosophy and art history, Bruno Decharme became a filmmaker. His first encounter with Jean Dubuffet’s art brut collection in the mid-1970s had a huge effect on him.

Since that time, he hasdivided his life between film and his collection, which today comprises five thousand works. In 1999, he opened the collection to the public and created association abcd, a research hub whose work has been disseminated through publications, seminars, documentaries, and exhibitions.

Barbara Safarova is a film producer with a PhD in literature and aesthetics, president of abcd, and program director at the Collège international de philosophie in Paris. She has published numerous essays on art brut. She has been cocurator of a number of exhibitions in France and other countries, including, most recently, La Folie en tête at Paris’s Maison de Victor Hugo, which presented works from the first psychiatric collections in the early twentieth century.

For the last 35 years, John Foster has been an educator, graphic designer, painter, photographer and continues as a passionate collector and scholar of art brut, photography, and self-taught art. For ten years (1995 to 2005), John was a founder and president of ENVISION Folk Art of Missouri, a not-for-profit arts organization where he served as editor of the Journal for 10 years. He is an emeritus member of the Board of Trustees for SPACES (Saving and Preserving Art and Creative Environments) and an emeritus member of the Advisory Board of the Folk Art Society of America. John Foster’s exhibition “Accidental Mysteries” of vernacular photography opened in 2005 at the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis and continues to travel to museum venues throughout the United States. 

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