Glimcher, Marc. Jean Dubuffet

Glimcher, M. (1987). Jean Dubuffet: towards an alternative reality. New York: Pace Publications.

The  origins of his interest in the art of the insane can be traced to his visit to Switzerland in 1923 when he received a copy of Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the Mentally Ill) by Hanz Prinzhorn. (pag 5)

Within this definition [Art Brut] he included the art of the insane, prisoners, clairvoyants and those without access to cultural conventions. In most cases they were provincial types, including a high percentage of women, many of advanced age and with little formal education. That he did not include “primitive” and folk art which has its own traditions; naïf art which desires to emulate cultural traditions; and the art of children, who lack the psychic depht for true creation and are too easily influenced by their audience; reveals the intensity of the commitment to his own narrow definition of Art Brut. He believed that true art must be spontaneous and made without an audience in mind. Thus he excluded “psychotic art” made at request of doctors to aid in diagnosis and cure. (pag 6)

An immensely sophisticated artist, Dubuffet, by the definition set forth in his own texts, could not be considered a maker of Art Brut. On his studio table I saw an ever-changing pile of books; poetic, philosophical or critical, awaiting his attention: testimony to the depth and breadth of his knowledge and information. Believing it nearly impossible to escape some acculturation, he strove toward the innocence of the Art Brut artist as an ideal. In 1968, he suggested, somewhat facetiously, that there be schools for so-called intellectuals, where the long slow process of “forgetfulness” and deculturation might be accomplished. (pag 6)

The Art Brut conventions of compulsive repetition, change, automatism, microscopic and macroscopic views, were essential in his work. He adhered to their rejection of perspective, scale, proportions and naturalistic coloration, as well as the combining of images and writing. Many Art Brut artists favored bricolage, or tinkering – the fortuitous use of materials. Dubuffet’s use of unorthodox materials such as macadam, paste, bark, branches, sponges, shells, stones, butterfly wings, and aluminum foil was a source of both inspiration and originality. Like the Art Brut artists, Dubuffet often used themes considered unworthy of art; themes of everyday life, and of the underclass; or simply the earth of a table top. His work, like theirs, is meant to express the isolation and alienation of inner psychic and mental states rather tahn the visual world. (pag 6)

…I, personally, have a very high regard for the values of primitive peoples: instinct, passion, caprice, violence, madness…. Nor do I feel that these values are in any way lacking in our Western world. On the contrary! But the values celebrated by our culture do not strike me as corresponding to the true dynamics of our minds…. I aim at an art that is directly plugged into our current life, that immediately emanates from our real life and our real moods. (pag 7)