South Florida's “Reinterpreting the Pioneer” exhibit, opening this week at Fort Lauderdale History Museum, features a number of notable Florida artists and others who blazed a trail in the state's proud Outsider Art tradition. 

"Outsider artists are in a class of their own; as they never learned the rules, their art is especially vivid, wild, and often shocking in its candor and style," said co-curator Lisa Stone, of Lisa Stone Arts in Fort Lauderdale. 

"These artists work or have worked on the fringes of art and life with little, if any, support. No institutions have given any of them a stamp of approval, and many reject ideas of mainstream legitimacy. None belong to any school or movement; these artists have no tradition to uphold or consciously reject," Stone said. 

Stone's featured artists are sculptor Florian Ludwig, photographer Fred Ressler, and painters Frank Richie, Eugene Beecher, John Summers, Milton Ellis, and Robert Roberg. 

Outsider Art has been growing since the 1940s when Frenchman, Jean Debuffet, began a fascination with “low art” or art of the common man. Outsider artists were isolated, working in basements, prison cells, psychiatric wards or rural towns where art was, at least in theory, born purely of the individual imagination and about everyday life. “Folk Art” also falls under the broad category of Outsider Art.

The term “Outsider” art is now any work of art produced by an untrained, idiosyncratic, or marginalized artist who is typically unconnected to the conventional art world - not necessarily by choice, but by circumstance. 

The term Outsider was coined by Roger Cardina, synonymous until the 1980s with the art brut movement begun by Debuffet. In 1987, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art (now the NSU Arts Museum) launched an exhibit called “A Separate Reality - Florida Eccentrics” curated by Karen Valdes under the leadership of then Executive Director George Bolge. 

This exhibition celebrates the 30-year anniversary of Florida's Outsider Artist exhibit in Fort Lauderdale for then 16 artists (one of whom was Purvis Young) who grew in popularity through the years.

The exhibition is a posthumous tribute to Reva Freedman, a South Florida Outsider artist. She wowed Broward County and the broader art community beginning in the 80s with her personal aesthetic and style receiving numerous awards and commissions. Up until her death in 2011, Freedman continued to put out an impressive body of work despite her struggles with dementia.

Co-curated with Clare Vickery of Grace Arts Florida and Lisa Stone Arts, the exhibit will also feature leaders from the academic community who will join in the conversation about cultural history via panels and pop up art exhibits from December 2016 - February 2017, with closing events March 3 - 5, 2017. 

 The exhibition seeks to connect visitors to the featured outsider artists as a means of defining what makes Broward's community culture distinctive. Local self-taught and institutionally trained artists will also collaborate and share their installations about cultural pioneers and noted outsider artists.

The public is invited to engage with the work of these pioneering South Florida artists on Sunday, Dec. 4 from noon to 5 p.m.

What: “Reinterpreting the Pioneer” Exhibit 

Where: Fort Lauderdale History Museum at the Historic New River Inn, 231 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale

RSVP: To opening reception for “Reinterpreting the Pioneer” 6 p.m. Dec. 2 on Eventbrite 

When: Exhibition opens to the general public Sunday, Dec. 4 from noon - 5 p.m.

Curators: Lisa Stone of Lisa Stone Arts and Clare Vickery of Grace Arts Center

Info:  www.graceartsflorida.com and 954-816-3324

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