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Pop without Pretense: Mass Media and the Art of James Castle

December 3 at 12:10 and 1:10
West Building Lecture Hall
Diana Greenwald, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, departments of American and British paintings and American and modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art

This presentation will be simultaneously interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL).

Self-taught artist James Castle (1899–1977) lived in remote rural Idaho until moving to the outskirts of Boise in his thirties. Not only was he isolated geographically, he was also born deaf. For Castle—like many “outsider” artists—past scholarship used biography and his marginalized social status to interpret his work. Diana Greenwald argues that the progressive integration of visual culture—nationally and globally—is key to understanding this artist’s work. Greenwald considers Castle through the same art historical lens applied to mainstream artists of the period who were similarly engaged with mass-circulated visual culture. Classifying Castle as a pop artist, although one without the pretense to distinguish “high” from “low” visual sources, moves away from the myth-making rhetoric that pervades discussion about outsider artists and makes an important contribution to the literature.

James Castle, Untitled (Star Kaleidoscope), (detail), n.d., soot and spit on brown paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington

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