Outsiders in Art and Place
'The Art That Dare Not Speak It's Name' exhibition and 'Dreaming Walls - Inside the Hotel Chelsea' film
‘The Art That Dare Not Speak It’s Name - Vout-o-Reenees
Last Thursday - a visit to Vout-o-reenee’s opening of ‘The Art That Dare Not Speak It’s Name’ in the East End - a group show of worldwide outsider artists curated by Colin Rhodes.
Annemarie Grgich ‘The Secret Cook’ 2009
Among the artists on display were Annemarie Grich (above) - hailing from Seattle, USA, Jungle Phillips and more well known artists such as Madge Gill and Martin Ramirez, to name a few. Copies of Colin Rhodes’ new publication ‘Outsider Art: Art Brut and It’s Affinities’ were on sale and feature many of the artists in the exhibition. Outsider art or ‘Art Brut’ as it was coined by Jean Dubuffet, fascinates me as it is a term that encapsulates artists who are self-taught and are somewhat othered. When I consider successful artists of the 20th century such as Francis Bacon, who eschewed any notion of technique in painting believing non-adherence to rules enabled the artist more freedom to create original works, I wonder where this label fits since Bacon was never referred to as an outsider artist despite his background alleging to traits often associated with the term. Looking to the present, Yayoi Kusama, the world’s top-selling female and most successful living artist, is currently adorning various Louis Vuitton stores under the brand value ‘Creating Infinity’ with replications of her brightly coloured artwork and giant life-like 3D replications of her image. Art and branding go hand in hand erstwhile retaining a sense of individual otherness. After years practicing art in New York’s avant-garde scene in the 1960s influencing the likes of Warhol and Claes Oldenberg, Kusama has often-times been labelled as an outsider artist due to her long-time residency in a mental health facility in her native Japan since the 1970s. I wonder exactly where the line between Outsider Artist and Non-Outsider Artist is drawn. Time to dive into Colin’s books perhaps.
Exhibition continues until 18th Feb 2023. Gallery open wed-sat 6-10.30pm at https://vout-o-reenees.com/
‘Dreaming Walls - Inside the Hotel Chelsea’ - film and Q&A at ICA, London
Onto a screening of ‘Dreaming Walls’ written and directed by Belgian film-makers Amélie van Elmbt and Maya Duverdier about the infamous Hotel Chelsea in New York’s Manhattan that saw the likes of Dylan Thomas, Janis Joplin and William Burroughs inhabit its storied walls. The film, a somewhat intuitive continuation of the 1980 Arena documentary ‘Chelsea Hotel’, made 100 years after the hotel was built, with a handful of present-day inhabitants presiding on the current state of the building and its future, now in the hands of developers in the business of ‘place-making’, aka charging high rents based on the cultural heritage of the building, cultural mining if you will. Gentrification is a multi-layered topic after-all.
The film alludes to gentrification without making overt political statements, rather enabling residents to talk about their time living in the building and what’s to come against a backdrop of dream-like film sequences evoking ghostly states of artistic experience. There are no overly-produced pop culture visuals as you might expect of a Netflix documentary - this is not of that ilk - yet subtle nods to the building’s cultural past are subtly interwoven as white plastic renovation sheets billow in the vacant airy halls and the external lift clatters outside the hotel’s windows. Merle Lister, a choreographer who founded her own dance company in the 1970s re-imagines a dance on the staircase and performance artist Rose Cory, who moved into the building in 1985 and has since lived ‘several lives’ is present on the ICA panel. 95 year old photographer Bettina Grossman states that she was not offered money to leave the hotel like other residents as the new owners were simply waiting for her expire. Viewers of the film at the ICA screening were able to ask questions - those provoked and unanswered in the film (it was shot during lockdown). Rose confirmed Bettina has since passed away and that rents for long-term residents have not exploded to gargantuan levels, as in Rose’s case - she struck a deal with the hotel’s long-time manager Stanley Bard that she would promise to renovate her room with the understanding that her rent would not increase exponentially, enabling her to continue living there. Whilst Ethan Hawke was paying $4,000 a month during his tenancy down the hallway amidst his divorce a la Arthur Miller, Rose was paying a fraction of that amount and is, in her own words, ‘holding the fort’ to this day. New York has rental caps in place to avoid gargantuan rent increases which is one positive.
Overall, the film is one worth seeing, sensitively made and respectful of the building’s past the present with a focus on the spirit of buildings and their importance in culture amidst globalisation and all that entails.
Below are some drawing of well-known past visitors and residents to Hotel Chelsea:
Framed painting of Bob Dylan in watercolour: https://bit.ly/3D6PRuK
Drawing of Allen Ginsberg: https://bit.ly/3H0ap9t
Painting of Patti Smith: https://bit.ly/3XNsTRs