|The term was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English
synonym for Art Brut (which literally translates as "Raw Art"
or "Rough Art"), a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet
to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet
focused particularly on art by insane asylum inmates.
While Dubuffet's term is quite specific, the English term "Outsider Art" is often applied more broadly, to include certain self-taught or "Naïve" art makers who were never institutionalized. Typically, those labeled as Outsider Artists have little or no contact with the institutions of the mainstream art world and they often employ unique materials or fabrication techniques. Much Outsider Art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds. (source)
|Robert Simon was an outsider artist of the "Na´ve" category, if one must categorize art. He began obsessively drawing at age 12, making small boxes and triangles in the margins of his school notebook paper, which were then shaded in. Forty years later, never having taken a single art class, his drawings are significantly more complex, the shapes and figures diverse and multifaceted, shading having given way to vivid colors. Like most outsider artists, his style continually metamorphoses -- with each drawing, a new expression of his changing inner consciousness emerges.
Drawing is and has been an incredible escape for me throughout most of my life. I do not do it to create some kind of appealing piece. I have to do it or my world becomes out of balance. When I am drawing, my heart rate slows down and my mind is focused, though not fixated on any specific thought. The thoughts come and go and are free-flowing. I have never drawn the same thing twice. I can't. If I tried to, which I have with some things, they are never the same. The truth is one's mind is never in the exact same place twice - it's like life, changing from one moment to the next.
People frequently ask me what certain drawings mean. I believe that art evokes thoughts and feelings that are the viewer's own. To dictate what should be interpreted interferes with what the viewer may need most out of the experience. Each person is free to input whatever meaning they wish on my work. However, a common theme played out in much of my work is a constant battle between chaos and order. There is much about my work that at first seems chaotic and confusing, but, if one looks closely, continually repeating patterns form a larger entity. I see my art as visual jazz of limitless patterns and infinite combinations with no set conventions to follow.
Simon was described as a newly discovered and amazing outsider talent. "His outlet is creating beautiful, abstract pieces filled with brilliant colors and themes that constantly change no matter how long one looks at them," Tag Gallery writes of Simon. "His drawings are mirrors of his soul, expressing streams of thoughts that he cannot articulate to others or even to himself. Refreshingly original and raw, each piece is unique with his imprint on it."
Jayne Weber, a trained artist from NY who loved his work, stated, "I look at these [drawings] and want to throw all my formal training away! It's honest. He's not afraid. It's someone going at it for their soul. I'm going to buy it now while I can afford it." Marjorie Kaye, Director of Caladan Gallery and Gallery 181, says that Simon's images are loaded with love and humor, observation and declaration. He is an artist shooting from the hip, with no restraints on the material manifestation of his imagination! His work exudes a freedom and natural exuberance rarely seen - probably because he does not impose any conventions on himself. One could find one's reflection in his work for hours, days, and even an eternity! We also must mention his use of color, texture, and form as being highly bindless in nature. This in turn, is a gift to us.
Simon's work can be seen at several galleries where he is an ongoing exhibitor. Tag Gallery in Nashville finds Simon's work draws consistent interest and he is featured regularly in special showings. Caladan Gallery, a Massachusetts-based online gallery, also features Simon's work in theme expositions. His work has been exhibited continually for more than three years. The Caladan Gallery director is a principal in opening a new tangible gallery in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Gallery 181, for which she solicited one of Simon's more recent drawings to display in an upcoming grand opening exhibition. Other credits include the Henry Boxer Gallery of London, England, under whom Simon's work has been shown at the New York Outsider Art Fair two years running and a third showing is planned for January 2007. He has been shown at the Folk Fest in Atlanta; Arts in the Garden, also in Atlanta; the Chicago Outsider Art Fair; the Java House in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Texas. Simon also won a 2nd place cover spot in the 14th Edition of Encyclopedia of Living Artists, May 2005 issue.
Simon inadvertently fell into motivational speaking arising from guest exhibitions at mental health hospitals and open house gallery shows. Since so little is known in the US about outsider art, he was asked to demonstrate and talk about outsider art in general and his own manifestation of it. He is a gifted and sensitive speaker who is able to communicate to his audience what moves him, how he is helped by his art, and how his audience, particularly those most troubled, can find some medium in which to express their most inner thoughts and feelings. He has spoken to groups at the Community College of Vermont in Burlington, Skyland Trails Residential Treatment Center in Atlanta, Georgia, The Children's Art Museum in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to name a few. If Robert Simon were to choose an art mantra, it might be: Art pleases. Art teaches. Art heals.
If you would like Robert Simon to speak to individuals or groups, please contact: