Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
Queens, New York
July 17, 2007
From journal Baltimore's Waterfront Area
London, United Kingdom
February 15, 2004
This is an amazing museum, featuring "outsider art." Truly one of the most outrageous, interesting art museums you will ever visit.
Outsider art is art by those traditionally excluded from society and therefore the "Art World." When we went, there was an exhibit of art by senior citizens, but you will see work by the institutionalised, the old, and the excluded. The museum is full of beautiful, complex canvases that have been worked on for years. It features art of every kind depicting end-of-the-world prophesizing, lonely musings, worlds filled with darkness and with light.
Traditional art galleries look bland and boring after this.
From journal Coast to Coast by Rail
March 9, 2003
"[We seek] to draw attention to America''s history as a mecca for forward-looking innovators, optimists, dreamers and doers--highlighting the sense that America is at her best when she actively remembers that many of her greatest citizens were very much self-taught, self-made pioneers."
Defining visionary art is an elusive task, for all art is by nature "visionary." However, in the sense used at this splendid museum, the term means art done by outsiders, those with little or no formal training, or art done by those obsessively pursuing a singular vision, often devoting decades to creating a single work or developing one theme. Visionary Art, strangely enough, is quite difficult to describe but very easily recognized.
The museum makes a grand opening statement just outside, where a flamboyant "art car" evokes head-shaking wonder. Every inch of an old hearse is covered in accretions of glassy objects, mostly in cobalt blue. Bottles, beads, baubles, and bibelots are ranged in bristling battalions, lovingly arrayed over each automotive fin and bumper. The rear of the vehicle features a grandiose shrine featuring an accordion and Jesus.
Much of the AVAM is devoted to a single exhibit on a core theme. Past exhibits have explored themes as diverse as war and peace, love and loss, visions of the apocalypse, and angels and aliens. The current exhibition, "High on Life: Transcending Addiction," sounds straightforward enough: seeming to promise art done by recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.
Ah, but what AVAM considers an addiction covers behaviors the rest of us might consider normal. The central idea behind the exhibit is this: humans are hardwired for addictive substances and activities. Moreover, the line between what society deems socially acceptable (excessive spending) and disgraceful (compulsive hoarding) is often arbitrary indeed.
The exhibit takes several hours to digest, but personal "honorable mentions" include Charles Benefiel’s obsessive exploration of time through "stippled" renderings of dolls, Elizabeth McGrath’s nightmarish yet amusing dioramas combining elements of reliquaries and circus sideshows, works by John Lawson,"the Hieronymous Bosch of Beads," and the singular visions of institutionalized life by Chris Mars.
"High on Life" is a powerful exhibit, by turns disturbing, euphoric, sly, angry, and transcendental, with an astonishing range work in all manner of media–everything from acrylics to cannabis seeds. Each section of the exhibit develops a central theme, such as "Temptation" or "Descent." What was most striking to me was the balance of views presented: the grim realities of addiction offset by the whimsy of LSD-induced hallucinatory effects, for example, or the ragged edge of William Burroughs’ "in your face" junky aesthetic softened by ethereal visions of paradise. More than any art museum I’ve visited, AVAM manages to come the closest to capturing (but never pinning down) the butterfly of the human spirit.
From journal Feathered Fish and Sword Swallowers
October 20, 2000
From journal Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Fells Point