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Introduction to the Exhibition-Outliers and American Vanguard Art

Lynne Cooke, senior curator, department of special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art. In the exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art, more than 250 works explore three distinct periods in American history when mainstream and outlier artists intersected, ushering in new paradigms based on inclusion, integration, and assimilation. On view at the National Gallery of Art from January 28 through May 13, 2018, the exhibition aligns work by such diverse artists as Charles Sheeler, Christina Ramberg, and Matt Mullican with both historic folk art and works by self-taught artists ranging from Horace Pippin to Janet Sobel and Joseph Yoakum. It also examines a recent influx of radically expressive work made on the margins that redefined the boundaries of the mainstream art world and challenged  the very categories of “outsider” and “self-taught.” Historicizing the shifting identity and role of this distinctly American version of modernism’s “other,” the exhibition probes assumptions about creativity, artistic practice, and the role of the artist in contemporary culture. Lynne Cooke introduces the exhibition in this lecture held on February 4, 2018.