Korman Family Galleries 152, 153; and Field Galleries 154, 155
This exhibition brings together twentieth-century works from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz collection that deal with shared themes of US history, the American landscape, religion, and mortality. The artists in this exhibition, who come from varied backgrounds and work in a range of styles and media, are often collectively labelled as “outsider” because they did not train in typical art schools, nor come up in the mainstream art world.
Discover how these artists—far from being outsiders—engaged quintessential aspects of the American experience in their work: spirituality, nationhood, the cultural and physical landscape, and America’s fraught history with race and racism. Some express an ambivalence about the American project, encapsulating both a celebration of America’s history and the desire that it were different. In other works, depictions of flags, wide vistas, animals, and rural life evoke the ideals of a mythic American West. Still others focus on symbols of Christianity, spirituality, and mortality. Together, these works demonstrate an investment in American life and culture and an optimism about the future—in this life or the next.
Over four decades, Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz have assembled one of the finest private holdings of work by outsider or self-taught artists. Their impressive collection, some of which has been given or promised to the museum, features celebrated figures such as Martín Ramírez, Elijah Pierce, and Bill Traylor as well as lesser-known figures such as Jon Serl, Bruno del Favero, Sister Gertrude Morgan, and Simon Sparrow. This transformative gift of works by a diverse roster of artists is an important contribution to our distinguished holdings of modern and contemporary art.
This exhibition is made possible by Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz.
Louis Marchesano, The Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Jun Nakamura, Suzanne Andree Curatorial Fellow in Prints and Drawings; and Jessica T. Smith, The Susan Gray Detweiler Curator of American Art, and Manager, Center for American Art