READ: Iranian Art Brut // Outsider Art from Persia

The beautiful and brilliant book, “Iranian Art Brut: Outsider Art from Persia: by Morteza Zahedi

Over the years, numerous terms have been
coined for a new category of aesthetics: naive
art, outsider art, singular art, nonmainstream art,
unstrained artists, self-taught art, nonacademic
art, amateur art, untrained visionaries, art resulting
from impulses and mental disorders, among many

In 1945, Jean Dubuffet called it art brut,
advocating the artistic creativity of the mentally
challenged, criminals, people who are isolated in
their homes, people at the fringes of the society,
those who do not expect to be acknowledged,
appreciated, or recognized, and whose artworks
are made out of necessity for an audience of one,
to reveal a profound secret. He kept these pieces
at the core of his collection, and, because art brut
is more enthusiasm than definition, more attitude
than genre or style, and more orientation than
status, he made his position clear.

Since the term “art brut” was never common
in the Anglo-Saxon world, and due to a lack of
theoretical foundation and serious literature on
the subject, in 1972, Roger Cardinal, reluctantly
and at the suggestion of his editor, referred to
this artistic tendency as “outsider art” in his book.
In fact, Cardinal had to come up with a term like
that, for Dubuffet used to say that he owned the
copyright to “art brut” and no one was allowed to
use it!

The publisher also engraved the words Outside
Art on the cover of the book to avoid legal
consequences (although Cardinal used the word
“art brut” all over the book to describe his views
and ideas).

This was the beginning of controversies.
Many experts believe that “outsider art” is an
imaginary concept that can be used to justify or
describe almost everything. They say something
like, “Such a term does not describe the world of
art, but examines the artist. It promotes a form of
discrimination in the sphere of art. It is a racist,
bogus, and elitist label that adds fuel to the fire of
superiority of the trained, recognized artist.”
Such things are rarely in the minds of artists
engaged in this form of artistic expression. These
people reinforce the fact that art, in the true
sense of the word, is dependent on essential
human behavior rather than merely being a
creative goal. (The most personal expression from
the most personal perspective.)

Thus, in 1979, Nico van der Endt proposed an
alternative term: singular art. He believed that,
in addition to outsider art, art brut is a common
French word and therefore cannot be ideal for
such a tendency.

Yet, while this dilemma still persists (i.e., after
decades), and none of these terms seem to
be entirely accurate, “outsider art” became
ubiquitous, and is now being used internationally.
We know that the arts of the non-European
world include a variety of ideas and forms
that are related to the histories of nations far
away from Europe, and it is clear that the arts
of non-European nations that rely on their
inspiration sand uniqueness, are great forces
and stimuli, which, during the last two centuries,
have been instrumental in transforming the
arts of the Western world into something truly
global. Consequently, the intersection of these
influences caused ebbs and flows in the forms
and expressions of art. Introducing these products
to the Western man required a transformation
that, over time, could gradually make the world
of art recognize their importance and realize that
not only these works were not simple, trivial, and
crude, but indeed advanced, both aesthetically
and conceptually.

Now in Iran, as in other parts of the world, we
are witnessing the development, promotion, and
acceptance of this artistic field. Although it is
rather new, it is moving strongly in parallel with
mainstream art.

Concerning the works published in this book,
it should be noticed that the works of these
individuals are addressed, in artistic trends, as “art
brut” or “self-taught.” Much like their ancestors
in the present age, these artists are engaged
in artistic creation—on the fringes. Their works
depend solely on pure human resources. Their
outputs are strangely tied to their natural lives.
The presentation of these works is underpinned
by their originality, innovation, and romantic goals.
The creators of this form of artistic expression
can be considered an epitome of disregard for
the social and economic considerations “in the art
world”: they are able to express their ideas in their
own language.

The works of a number of these artists are
situated on the boarder of contemporary art
and art brut. The visual manifestations of the art
have such frankness, latitude, and immediate
expressiveness that many experts believe that
it has more originality and power than the
mainstream art. Perhaps the real reason is that
the indentations of the artists are different and,
similar to trained and professional artists, they are
not concerned with mainstream issues.

The truth is that, when Dubuffet presented his
rules about the filed, no one really knew what
its content was and how to make sense of it. No
one imagined what would happen later in Europe,
the United States, Africa, the Middle East, and
Asia. Now, however, everything has changed and
the idea of art brut is gradually developing and
penetrating the global culture: a colossal, diverse,
and pluralistic field, involving non-European and
American countries—such as Iran.

Morteza Zahedi

Published by marv

An artist/curator of outsider art and folk artwork, specializing in the marketing, buying and selling, promoting, educating, and storytelling of non-conforming artists.

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