Exhibitions

Viewshed: Impressions of Place

May 15, 2019 @ 8:00 am - Aug 31, 2019 @ 5:00 pm

The James Castle house presents, in partnership with the James Castle Collection and Archive an exhibition of drawings by James Castle. This exhibition highlights drawings of the shed, his primary living space and studio for over 30 years, and its relationship to the surrounding landscape and buildings.

The Art of Collage

Jun 1, 2019 @ 8:00 am - Sep 2, 2019 @ 5:00 pm

From Joseph Cornell’s curious found-object boxes to Jess’s fantastical “paste-ups,” discover the seemingly limitless ways that modern and contemporary artists have mixed materials to create something entirely new and surprising. This exhibition explores the rich breadth and history of assemblage and collage and features many self-taught artists who reinvented their chosen mediums.

Past Exhibitions


Louder than Words

February 2, 2019 — May 5, 2019

James Castle was featured in the exhibition Louder than Words at the Zuckerman Museum of Art at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Artists include Terry Adkins, John Cage, Nick Cave, Christine Sun Kim, and Yoko Ono, among others.

This exhibition highlighted artists using non-linguistic sounds, symbols and gestures to communicate. Curator Teresa Bramlette Reeves suggested that some artists, “…who work within the imposed condition of deafness, reveal the gaps inherent in communication — what is missing, misunderstood, intentionally ignored, or entirely invented.”

James Castle Inside Image

Outliers and American Vanguard Art

November 18, 2018 — March 18, 2019

James Castle’s work was featured in the West Coast presentation of "Outliers and American Vanguard Art".

The exhibition was organized and first exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. followed by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art hosted this major exhibition to explore key moments in American art history when avant-garde artists and outliers intersected, and how their interchanges ushered in new paradigms based on inclusion, integration, and assimilation. The first section of the exhibition illustrates how the early history of American modernism, especially the first years of the Museum of Modern Art, championed folk art and self-taught artists before the ascendance of abstract expressionism. The second section begins in the late 1960s when artists affiliated with the "Chicago Imagists" and West Coast assemblage practices became the leading advocates for outliers and visionary artists. The third section shows the continued impact of outlier practices on contemporary art.

The exhibition featured over 250 works in a range of media by more than 80 self-taught and trained artists, such as Henry Darger, William Edmondson, Lonnie Holley, Greer Lankton, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Matt Mullican, Horace Pippin, Martín Ramírez, Betye Saar, Judith Scott, Charles Sheeler, Cindy Sherman, Bill Traylor, and Kara Walker.

The James Castle Primer (An Exhibition)

November 15, 2018 — February 2, 2019

This exhibition included 62 artworks by American artist James Castle. With a few exceptions, all work in the exhibition is also featured in the recently published book, “The James Castle Primer”.

Outliers and American Vanguard Art

June 24, 2018 — September 30, 2018

Some 300 works explore three distinct periods in American history when mainstream and outlier artists intersected, ushering in new paradigms based on inclusion, integration, and assimilation. The exhibition aligned 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, while challenging 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. A fully illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition.

The exhibition was curated by Lynne Cooke, senior curator, special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art.

Construction, Deconstruction, and Abstraction: The Art of James Castle

April 24, 2018 — May 26, 2019

Since first displaying his art in 1963, the Boise Art Museum has been committed to exhibiting, collecting, and preserving the work of Idaho artist James Castle (1899-1977). His artwork is regularly featured in Permanent Collection exhibitions, and this is the tenth solo show of the artist’s work at the Museum. Through gifts and purchases, BAM now has the largest museum collection of Castle’s artwork. Although he never received formal artistic training, Castle’s artwork presents a sophisticated approach rarely seen in outsider art.

Outliers and American Vanguard Art

January 28, 2018 — May 13, 2018

Some 300 works explore three distinct periods in American history when mainstream and outlier artists intersected, ushering in new paradigms based on inclusion, integration, and assimilation. 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, while challenging 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. A fully illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition.

The exhibition is curated by Lynne Cooke, senior curator, special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Sponsors: The exhibition is made possible by a generous gift from the Smith-Kogod Family.

A Limitless Vision: The Collection of Audrey B. Heckler

September 28, 2017 — November 18, 2017

Sara Kay Gallery is pleased to announce its inaugural exhibition, A Limitless Vision: The Collection of Audrey B. Heckler, a survey of one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of outsider art. The exhibition will feature over 30 rare and important paintings, drawings, and sculptures from Audrey B. Heckler’s prestigious collection, many of which will be exhibited to the public for the first time. On view from September 28 to November 18, 2017, the show serves as a tribute to one of America’s foremost art collectors, as well as an opportunity to discover the work of self-taught artists.

Heckler has shown an enduring curiosity, passion, and advocacy for outsider art since 1993, when she stumbled upon New York’s first Outsider Art Fair. “Outsider art spoke to me personally, and I was fascinated by the artists’ self-expression, storytelling, and biographies,” said Heckler, adding “It has its own resonance.” Heckler has since thoughtfully built an eclectic and encyclopedic collection that includes nearly five hundred works by two hundred self-taught artists from around the world. A native New Yorker, she lives in direct dialogue with her collection, all of which is displayed salon-style in both her Upper East Side apartment and home in upstate New York.

A Limitless Vision transports Heckler’s eye and the environment she has created to Sara Kay Gallery’s townhouse setting, resulting in a deeply personal display. The collection traces the development of outsider art from the 20th century to today. On view will be: work by celebrated American artists, such as Martín Ramírez, David Butler, and James Castle, as well European artists Adolf Wölfli, Augustin Lesage, and Aloise Corbaz. The works on display span a wide range of subject matter, materials, voices and visions. For example, the work of Bill Traylor, who began making art at age 85, exists as the largest known oeuvre by an artist born into slavery. Also on view will be one of the largest works created by British mediumistic artist Madge Gill, outside of Jean Dubuffet’s private collection, before it came into the possession of Lausanne, Switzerland’s Collection de l’Art Brut. The backgrounds of the featured artists range from a jazz saxophonist to a cigar roller to a bacteriologist, with each work bringing its own unique energy to the space.

Accompanying Heckler’s collection will be the work of Pablo Picasso and Jean Dubuffet, two artists that found inspiration in outsider art and helped to propel the genre. On view will be a unique cast by Dubuffet, as well as a selection of rare, hand-painted, unique ceramics by Picasso that remained a part of the artist’s personal collection throughout his lifetime. Founded in 2017 by Sara Kay, Sara Kay Gallery presents genre-defying programming across a wide range of art historical periods and movements and places emphasis on supporting female artists. “I began my career at the American Folk Art Museum in New York,” said Kay. “This show is very much a reflection of my own background and expertise that spans many genres. It is a privilege and honor for me to bring Audrey’s collection to the greater public.”

Audrey B. Heckler is a leading collector of works by self-taught artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. She serves on the boards of both the American Folk Art Museum and the Foundation for Self-Taught Artists in Philadelphia, and is the President and Founder of the Foundation to Promote Self-Taught Art. In 2017, Rizzoli and the American Folk Art Museum published The Hidden Art, a comprehensive catalogue of Heckler’s collection.

Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960

April 28, 2017

Focusing on works made from 1900 to 1960, Where We Are traces how artists have approached the relationships, institutions, and activities that shape our lives. Drawn entirely from the Whitney’s holdings, the exhibition is organized around five themes: family and community, work, home, the spiritual, and the nation. During the six decades covered here, the United States experienced war and peace, economic collapse and recovery, and social discord and progress. American artists responded in complex and diverse ways, and a central aim of the exhibition is to honor each artist’s efforts to create her or his own vision of American life. The artists and their works suggest that our sense of self is composed of our responsibilities, places, and beliefs.

Where We Are, as well as each of its sections, is titled after a phrase in W. H. Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939.” Auden, who was raised in England, wrote the poem in New York shortly after his immigration to the United States and at the very outset of World War II. The title of the poem marks the date Germany invaded Poland. While its subject is the beginning of the war, Auden’s true theme is how the shadow of a global emergency reaches into the far corners of everyday life. Although mournful, the poem concludes by pointing to the individual’s capacity to “show an affirming flame.” Where We Are shares Auden’s guarded optimism, gathering a constellation of artists whose light might lead us forward.

Where We Are is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection, with Jennie Goldstein, assistant curator, and Margaret Kross, curatorial assistant.

Inside the Outside: Five Self-Taught Artists from the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation

March 28, 2017 — July 23, 2017

This exhibition features the work of five visual artists who operate within the genre of “self-taught art,” a sweeping term applied to artists who, for various reasons, did not benefit from, nor were influenced by, a formal art education. From Nellie Mae Rowe’s vivacious patterned drawings of animals to the hushed and serene rural landscapes of a silent James Castle and the animated tableaux of Southern life created by an observant, people-loving Bill Traylor, these artists used found and repurposed materials to describe worlds that hover between the real and the fantastical.

Willie Young has used paper for wrapping carpets as a medium, taking a highly adaptive and functional material to an altogether new level with finely crafted and delicate images. Like the other artists included here, his art blends aspects of his immediate reality with a profoundly innovative world. Whereas Thornton Dial worked with everyday materials on a larger scale to create expressive scenes, which often address history, politics and world events from a critical perspective.

Though grouped under the self-taught heading, their work could not be more distinct. By identifying a select group of artists to consider within this rubric, the exhibition examines the vastly different realities that can inspire an individual to create ambitious and lasting artworks that do not fit neatly into the trends of mainstream-art practice. Drawing is a major presence in this exhibition; it is an immediate, inexpensive and intimate medium for artists of humble means from any background. The artists featured here pursued their passions while holding jobs that ranged from steel working to shoe shining. Modest, lightweight and transportable materials had obvious benefits, allowing for quick sketching and alteration.

William Louis-Dreyfus was an early champion of many self-taught artists and built an important collection of modern and contemporary works housed in Mount Kisco, New York. He collected art based not on any trends but because of “the conviction that the work achieves an inescapable and meaningful artistic presence.” This philosophy extends to the self-taught world; he acquired works “that transcend craft and folk traditions and end up creating, first and foremost, artistic experience.”