Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985), who dedicated much of his career to art brut, once said that art, “likes to be incognito… Its best moments are when it forgets what its own name is.” When the Creative Growth Art Center, California, provided paper and paint to patients suffering from mental disabilities, as Dubuffet himself once did, it similarly sought out art where it isn’t typically looked for, and challenged the institutionalized, academic a priori definitions characteristic of the milieu.
Dan Miller, Untitled, 2007. Courtesy Galerie Impaire
Last week, the Center’s Paris-based gallery, Galerie Impaire, is showing a dual exhibition, “Between the Lines,” by 40-year-old Dan Miller suffering from severe autism, and Naomie Kremer, a mid-career academically-trained artist. Miller’s work is his primary form of communication: he draws and paints repetitive layers of letter-like shapes, forming a mysterious language of some kind; the result is like a naïve take on Futuristic calligraphy, a raw, contemporary version of Umberto Boccioni’s Gli Uomini. It’s a pairing that tests both the meanings of abstraction, and the limits of political correctness.
Kremer similarly incorporates drawing and painting to form shapes which sometimes resemble writing, using repetition and layering, “I look for the invisible molecular world that one is mentally aware of, maybe not visually” as she describes it. Both paintings have an instinctive feel to them, expressed by repetition, and obsessive, intricate accumulation. “Dan’s work is excessive and layered, and so is mine. There is a fullness a complexity, that I seek in my work,” Kremer says.
Naomie Kremer, Orangerie, 2009
Hung side by side, there is an intriguing resemblance between the two, which makes them almost undistinguishable when hung on the same wall. This blurring between professional and non-professional pieces of work is one of the gallery’s main aims, explains Galerie Impaire director Tom Di Maria explains: “We want to look at the intersection between art brut and academically trained art, by blending the two, to make them converse. Artists suffering from autism and other disabilities can’t be part of the art dialogue but we want to challenge that.”
In 2008, New York’s Museum of Modern Art acquired four pieces by Dan Miller. Whether or not an artist can talk about his or her work, ‘in the end, it is the visual result that must stand up,” Kremer says.
Between the Lines is open through November 15. Galerie Impaire is located at 47 rue de Lancry, Paris.