Jenifer P. Borum

  • Peter Pinchbeck

    Constituting the first significant showing of Peter Pinchbeck’s work in New York since the memorial exhibition that followed his passing in 2000, these tandem presentations offered a representative range of his formidable oeuvre, which still awaits critical recognition. Although primarily a painter (AbEx lured him to New York from his native England in 1960), Pinchbeck first became known for his Minimalist constructions, one of which was featured in the watershed “Primary Structures” show at the Jewish Museum in 1966. He would soon shift his full attention back to painting, devoting his efforts

  • Philadelphia Wireman

    For the past decade and a half, the small, wire-trussed assemblages made by an anonymous artist known only as the Philadelphia Wireman have circulated busily within the folk/outsider art world, but the mystery of their origin has remained unsolved. Over a thousand of these enigmatic objects were found on a Philadelphia street corner by a student and brought to the attention of local outsider art dealer John Ollman, who has worked diligently to preserve and exhibit them at different venues, Matthew Marks Gallery’s minuscule Twenty-first Street annex being the latest.

    It is widely assumed, due to

  • “Coming Home!: Self-Taught Artists, the Bible, and the American South”

    “Coming Home!: Self-Taught Artists, the Bible, and the American South” was a Trojan horse of sorts. Organized by the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, it quietly infiltrated New York via the newly established Museum of Biblical Art. There it challenged the folk/outsider art establishment by unapologetically celebrating Southern culture and evangelical Christianity as the context best suited to facilitate an understanding of the region’s self-taught artists. “Coming Home!” was part of a growing critical/curatorial move toward the reclamation of such artists from both the carnivalesque

  • Sister Gertrude Morgan

    This retrospective, which featured the paintings, sculpture, writings, and music of New Orleans–based self-taught visionary artist Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900–1980), reflected a recent shift within the hybrid field of folk/outsider art from market-driven sensationalism toward critical self-awareness and increased curatorial accountability. Morgan, an evangelical African American from Alabama who believed herself to have been called by God to preach the Gospel through a range of expressive practices, is the kind of artist often misrepresented by the discourse of outsider art that is the legacy

  • “Heavenly Visions”

    This exhibition, the first major presentation of Shaker “gift” drawings and song manuscripts since 1979, shattered a number of common misconceptions about this centuries-old culture. The pared-down aesthetic one might associate with the Shakers through familiarity with their furniture is nowhere to be found in these bright, minutely detailed works in pen and watercolor on paper. And the widely held notion that making these works constituted a benign pastime for women was countered by the curatorial affirmation of the drawings’ powerful social, theological, and aesthetic significance in Shaker

  • William Edmondson

    FOR MORE THAN SIXTY YEARS, the limestone sculptures of William Edmondson (1874–1951) have stood patiently at the border of art's mainstream and its margins. When his minimal, reductive work came to the attention of Alfred Barr, the self-taught carver became the first African American to be granted a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1937. Yet despite this early crossover, Edmondson's work has been consistently ignored by a museum-market machine that privileges a baroque outsider sensibility. Now “The Art of William Edmondson,” a traveling retrospective organized by the Cheekwood

  • Leroy Person

    The work of self-taught artist Leroy Person (1907–85) has largely escaped the pull of the burgeoning folk/outsider market during the last two decades. Person’s minor-key sensibility may set him apart from the heavy-handed expressionism favored by institutions in that field, but his furniture constructions, carved sculpture, and crayon drawings occupy a powerful position within the margin even as they fruitfully challenge its borders. Comprising thirty-three works, Person’s recent solo debut provided a modest yet effective retrospective.

    Person’s intensely private, spiritual vision defies easy

  • Anna Zemánková

    A consistent source of formal and iconographic inspiration to academically trained, historically engaged artists throughout the twentieth century (from Paul Klee to Max Ernst to Julian Schnabel), talented autodidacts like Czech artist Anna Zemánková (1908–86) have too often been discussed using a pseudo-critical vocabulary (such as “compulsive visionaries,” coined by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992) that reads more like a diagnosis than an appraisal. Although the circumstances of this artist’s life might invite the former, the eighteen oil-pastel drawings that made up the show,

  • “The Direct Eye”

    With this exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has joined the very short list of major institutions willing to take on the challenge of contextualizing their holdings of work by self-taught artists within an expansive art-historical narrative. A selection of paintings and wall-mounted assemblages compared the work of four self-taught greats—Grandma Moses, Earl Cunningham, Horace Pippin, and Bill Traylor—with fourteen academically trained artists, ranging from Paul Sample to Alison Saar. In revealing the formal and thematic similarities between the two groups, the show staked out a decidedly

  • Forrest Myers

    For decades, Forrest Myers has been exploring the territory that comprises the no-man’s-land between design and sculpture, consistently forsaking a purist dedication to either in favor of a stubborn hybridity that has ensured his excommunication from both. His work invites us to indulge in the understandable impulse to buttonhole his output as “artsy chairs,” “functional sculpture,” or any other thumbnail epithets connoting a fall from disciplinary grace. But to accept this invitation is to miss the richness of Myers’ sense of play, a materially embedded, deconstructive wit that seriously

  • Red Grooms

    “New York Stories” is Red Grooms’ latest attempt to present a slice of Big Apple life. Nearly twenty years after his “Ruckus Manhattan” exhibition, Grooms is still primarily interested in portraying this city’s quotidian “ruckus”—his word for the chaos defining late-20th-century urban civilization—with a healthy dose of comedy. The artist’s trademark sculptopictoramas," mixed-media assemblages combining two-dimensional and freestanding elements, are especially suited to the task of characterizing the excitement and claustrophobia unique to New York. By mixing the dizzying pictorial recessions

  • William Daley

    For nearly forty years William Daley has pushed the boundaries of the ceramic tradition. Daley’s recent retrospective reflected his sustained exploration of the vessel form, focusing on the dynamic relationship between his drawings and works in clay. Comprising 45 pieces, dating from the mid ’50s to the early ’90s, this collection of both studies and finished works enabled the viewer to trace Daley’s ongoing effort to place the ceramic tradition in an expanded context—to explore its origins in the ancient ritual forms of diverse cultures, as well as to forge a relationship with architectural

  • William Edmondson

    “Miracles,” which brought together 36 works by the sculptor William Edmondson (ca. 1882–1951), was the first solo show of this self-taught artist’s work to be mounted in 20 years. A Tennessee native, Edmondson was active from approximately 1931–49; he was not only the first black artist to be honored with a solo show at MoMA, but he was also the first American self-taught artist to make his mark on the mainstream. It remains rather puzzling, then, that apart from a number of recent survey shows, and the support of a few devotees, Edmondson’s work has remained in the shadows despite the current

  • Mary Lucier

    Through a rich interweaving of different media, Mary Lucier’s Last Rites (Positano), 1995, reconstructed a distant moment of her recently deceased mother’s past. Lucier transformed the gallery into a dramatically lit, cavernous space, and filled it with speakers, video monitors, her mother’s furniture, and photographs. The result was less a testament to the loss of her mother than to the mechanisms of memory itself.

    At the center of Last Rites was a narrative of adventure, romance, and tragedy: Lucier’s mother, Margaret Glosser, an Ohio native, traveled abroad as a young woman, met and fell in

  • “Art of the Other Mexico”

    Dedicated to César Chávez, “Art of the Other Mexico: Sources and Meanings” examined the complexities of bicultural identity through 70 new and recent works by 20 artists. The common denominator here was a focus on the rich traditions of Mexican visual culture: contemporary Chicano experience was explored through the recuperation of Mexican folk, religious, and urban traditions. While in the late ’60s this strategy of cultural reclamation was viewed as a direct form of resistance to the dominant Anglo culture, today such fervid political agendas have been replaced by the more amorphous goals of

  • “Looky Loo” and “High Anxiety”

    Since the early ’90s, Kenny Schachter has staged consistently edgy group shows, typically for brief periods and usually in transitional spaces. Late last spring, two exhibitions showcased his signature, low-concept approach to curating: “Looky Loo,” held at an established nonprofit space uptown, and “High Anxiety,” at a temporary downtown site.

    “Looky Loo” presented works with no pretensions to the status of high art by seven artists with a penchant for drawing out the beauty of the ephemeral. All seven pieces reflected the low-budget esthetic favored by Schachter: an unlikely mix of sophisticated

  • Jacob Lawrence

    Three recent shows together comprised the first retrospective view of Jacob Lawrence’s work in nearly a decade, offering a welcome reevaluation of his oeuvre. This impressive showing of 118 paintings testified to Lawrence’s ability to communicate with both art-world and non-art-world audiences—a quality that has predictably compromised his place in the still narrowly defined Modernist canon.

    Perhaps Lawrence’s ambiguous position in the history of American art has something to do with the fact that his series “The Migration of the Negro,” 1941, completed when he was just 24, met with a critical

  • Nancy Azara

    Part of the first wave of artists that began to explore feminist issues in earnest, Nancy Azara creates sculptures, from wood and found objects, that simultaneously evoke a mythical, pre-Christian era in an attempt to posit a collective feminine identity. Reflecting a kind of feminism that now seems quaint, if not simplistic, Azara’s project challenges patriarchal Western paradigms through the archetypal, Jungian-based notion of the goddess.

    Two galleries featured Azara’s monumental “altars”: freestanding constructions fashioned of hand-carved wood, painted and covered with weathered gold leaf.

  • Thornton Dial

    Prior to his simultaneous solo museum shows in 1993, at the New Museum and the Museum of American Folk Art, few outside the relatively insular folk-art world were familiar with the work of Thornton Dial. By the late ’80s, Dial had gained a respectable following for his unique brand of funk assemblage—a homegrown art form that came to be celebrated as emblematic of a Southern, African-American sculptural vernacular. To the horror of folk purists, consistent patronage has allowed Dial to explore media not generally available to a self-taught artist in rural Alabama. Since 1990, he has moved from

  • Lonnie Holley

    Lonnie Holley works in an environment-cum-studio situated on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama—a dense jungle comprised of lyrical, twisted wire shapes, colorful acrylic paintings, industrial sandstone carvings, and weathered assemblages constructed from found objects and materials. A young, self-taught innovator within what Robert Farris Thompson has identified as the vernacular African-American traditions of cemetery decoration, the yard show, and the bottle tree, Holley has forged a sophisticated visual vocabulary that works to bridge the arbitrary divide between the mainstream and the