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Self-Taught Artists Brought Into the Mainstream in New Exhibition at The Chrysler Museum of Art
Attributed to William Matthew Prior (American, 1806–1873), Double Portrait—Husband and Wife, ca. 1850. Oil on cardboard. Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch.

NORFOLK, VA.- The Chrysler Museum of Art and Old Dominion University partner to present Into the Mainstream: Self-Taught Artists from The Garbisch and Gordon Collections. The exhibition opens August 13 in the Chrysler Museum and will be on view through December 31. Admission is free.

This collaborative exhibition pairs ODU’s Barron and Ellin Gordon collection of self-taught artists with the Chrysler’s 19th-century work in the same tradition. The Chrysler’s contribution includes works collected by Walter Chrysler, Jr.’s, sister and her husband, Bernice and Edgar Garbisch. The Garbisch collection is extensive, with more than 2,600 pieces. Upon their deaths, most of their art was donated to major museums such as the Chrysler and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The Gordons’ collection includes selected pieces from the 375 works of art donated to Old Dominion University, which are now housed in the Barron and Ellin Gordon Gallery on Monarch Way in Norfolk.

The exhibition aims to critically reassess self-taught and folk art as a marginal aspect of fine art by exploring the work of crossover artists, or those who have received academic or art world recognition. Important pieces from both collections will be on view. Students from ODU worked with Amy Brandt, the Chrysler’s McKinnon curator of modern and contemporary art, and Robert Wojtowicz, Ph.D., ODU professor of art history and associate dean for research and graduate studies, to curate the show. Each student is responsible for the selection, display, research, and written labels for the walls within the exhibition. The students will also present the works on the audio tour available on iPods at the Museum.

Self-taught art is at times referred to as folk art or outsider art, but mainly it serves as the umbrella term for art that is created outside of the mainstream of art history. Selected works include Purvis Young’s Faces Over The City, one of many murals he made on salvaged wood found in the Overtown section of Miami, where he lived. He nailed his expressive art to abandoned buildings around his inner-city home town. Visitors can see more examples of Young’s work at the Chrysler Museum next spring in the 30 Americans exhibition. Another example is from Howard Finster, who also created Paradise Gardens Park & Museum in Chattooga County, Georgia, which showcases his folk art and is now a tourist attraction.

The collaboration between the Museum and the University is being documented by Daniel O’Leary, Ph.D., who will include the exhibition installation in his larger film project about the Gordons.

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