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How to Look at Outsider Art Paperback – May 1, 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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About the Author

Lyle Rexer is the author of numerous books and essays on art and photography, including a number that focus on Outsider Art. He has contributed feature-length articles to publications such as The New York Times, Art in America, Art on Paper, and Aperture. He lives in New York.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (May 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810992027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810992023
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Kathlene Kelly on February 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
Lyle Rexer has opened a door for me when it comes to "outsider art." Because I am new to the genre of Art Brut, my inexperience didn't recognize the possibility that the two terms would not refer to the same thing. Outsider Art and Art Brut (or raw art) are terms one hears used interchangeably despite the fact that they are not identical concepts. The keepers of Art Brut history would define the term as art produced by the historically disenfranchised artist - criminals, children and psychotics - with the primary spotlight illuminating the latter. Outsider art, on the other hand, seems to refer to un-taught or self-taught artistic activity that has become increasingly familiar over the last 4 to 6 decades.
Rexer does an admirable job representing both systems of expression but it is clear that his sentiments lay firmly embedded in the Art Brut base camp.

The question How to Look at Outsider Art answers for is the very one the title promises to investigate. Rexer is succinct:

How is it possible to appreciate art that is apparently without precedent? How can we understand objects that are unlike anything we have seen - and in some cases strike us as deeply disturbing? (70)

Because our animal-brains sort millions of pieces of information every minute it is necessary that some portions of the onslaught be sorted using different methods. Some information is routed to the discard pile if it poses no threat or garners no curiosity - the typical noise-making of one's house or work environment for example. Some information is processed via a central nervous system reflex arc - the system that saves us from having to conceptualize, interpret and act in situations that mean the difference between safety, injury and survival (i.e.
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I'm about 2/3 through this book and already I know I will read it again. The author gives a very thorough, thoughtful description of the types of outsider art that exist, a brief history, and a description of various artists and their work. This not an in-depth study of outsider art, but unlike many smaller books on complicated subjects, it does contain concise, well ordered and logical information about what might be considered "illogical" artwork. If you are interested in the subject of outsider art, this book should be in your library.
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Format: Paperback
This book not only brings an acute sensitivity to the issues related to Visionary, Outsider, and/or art brut, but is a fabulous resource for thinking about art as a whole. The author has a marvelous handle on issues of definitional boundries, themes, and techniques, but also a nimble way of describe the viewer's experience of this branch of art and its unique and problematic features (i.e., no one "works" in the style of Outsider Art, or aspires to be counted in its canon; the creators, as often as not, do not even imagine their work addressing an "audience," other than themselves and/or God). The author had a surprisng gift for giving voice to my inchoate thoughts and reactions to art.
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