“Super-Rough,” a sculpture exhibition presented by Outsider Art Fair and guest curated by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami in Soho

Ted Ludwiczak’s “Granite Triple Head” (2005)

This year, Outsider Art Fair in New York took place online. This event usually takes place at the end of January. Next year, it will open in early February at its usual location in Chelsea.

Now fair organizers have created “Super-Rough”, a collection of approximately 200 sculptural works from an international list of art brut and outsider artists, with Takashi Murakami as a guest curator.

The exhibition, which opened at 150 Wooster Street in Soho and ran until June 27, provided an overview of nearly 60 artists’ creations in welded metal, carved stone, embroidered fabric, and cut paper. The name “Super-Rough” plays on the term “super flat” coined by Murakami, even if it has no hint of the actual flatness of traditional Japanese art forms, and sometimes emphasizes two-dimensionality in the pictorial space. And, as the name suggests, “Super-Rough” drew attention to the power of the craft of self-taught sculptors.

Mixed assembly technique A.C.M. (artist Alfred Corinne Marie), Hawkins Bolden, Paul Amar, and other self-taught people who have worked or worked with found or discarded material were also abundant. The art came mainly from American and foreign dealers who participated in the New York fair.

“Masato and I Visit the Ise Grand Shrine” (2021) by Kazumi Kamae.

As for Takashi Murakami, he has sent in and reworked stylistic phenomena in his own work, which was as colorful as it was disruptive in his approach to Japanese pop culture obsession with cute cartoon mascots, fashion, or corporate logos.

Today, Takashi Murakami recognizes the aesthetic journey that took him from criticizing cute pop to embracing art brut and the famous aura of the authenticity of outsider art. In a recent email interview written from his studio in Tokyo, Takashi Murakami noted that as a university student, he learned about the art of outsiders when he saw an exhibit at the Setagaya Art Museum.

Takashi Murakami

The 1993 Tokyo sculpture exhibition, entitled Parallel Visions: Contemporary Artists and Outsider Art, was founded at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In 2011, also in Tokyo, Takashi Murakami attended an exhibition of works by the American outsider artist Henry Darger.

It was organized by Yukiko Koide, a Tokyo dealer specializing in the so-called Japanese art brut. She has provided several artworks for Super-Rough in Soho. Later, Takashi Murakami acquired Darger, as well as mysterious ink-on-paper drawings from the modern Japanese brut master Monma.

He explained that by owning such works himself, he was greatly influenced by the beauty and tension that exist between freedom and limitation at the time of artistic creation.

“Super-Rough” in Soho included such varied sculpting materials as:

  • the metal deities of the Brazilian blacksmith Jose Adario dos Santos with formidable tridents;
  • a tank, a rocket ship, and other items made from pieces of wood, sawdust, and glue, carpenter John Byam of upstate New York;
  • large elegant faces of Polish-American Ted Ludwiczak, carved out of stones;
  • painted wooden figurines of the Frenchman Roger Chomeaux, known as Chomo.

Of particular interest from Japan are:

  • the unglazed ceramic figures of Kazumi Kamae, with their many facets and pointed surfaces;
  • Bulbous, chest-like Yumiko Kawai hills of fabric and thread embroidery;
  • and scissors carefully carved by Yuki Fujioka, whose thin wavy edges almost prevent these items from lying, well, very flat.

Takashi Murakami also noted that he is fascinated by the way the thoughts and feelings of outside artists flow through their pens and brushes without the anxiety he says he feels when he believes that someday his work will no longer be accepted by the world at large.



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