"the contemporary as an innate quality".


The contemporary is not a quality that has been added to Art brut or Outsider art. They were not inoculated to look like manifestations of this time. The contemporary was always there. From the very beginning. From the moment that a Wölfli (1) composed such experimental notations that music and art never quite knew where to place them, or that a Kea Tawana (2) wandered through demolished sites and ruined buildings collecting waste to build her imposing Ark, an Ark erected in the middle of abandoned Newark. The contemporary has always been, since the genesis and development of these peripheral expressions, as a sort of daily presence, perhaps ignored or overlooked because there were other more important things -other features, essences- towards which it was necessary to look, in order to understand.

And when did these manifestations seem to become more emphatically contemporary? When the contemporary, as a rule, has ceased to impress, to provoke perplexity, like a slow and sad decline. It is then, when the artist of this time says things like: "we have to learn from them" (from the brut, the marginal, the peripheral ones). "We must learn their tricks".

An ideal is thus enlivened, where attention is paid to the ideo-aesthetic qualities of marginal creation that leads it to claim, in its own right, a place within the contemporary endeavor, and to share in the spirit of the present, and provide it with meanings that become guarantors of the redefinitions to which it is constantly necessary to submit these concepts. 

It is almost impossible to think of this time, the time of now, without problematizing any of the ways in which we dare to separate an artistic phenomenon within the complex web of relationships and diverse forms of interconnection, in the midst of which, we know, voices, narratives, discourses, ways of doing things emerge and are reconfigured. How can we think that there is something isolated in the art scene, when the territories of creation are a dynamic structure of journeys and encounters?

It is therefore, that works such as the ones gathered here seek not only to make us aware of the natural existence of these links, but also to summon reflections that put on the table the inherent ways in which marginal art participates in the spirit of the contemporary. We find ourselves here in front of creations that enclose complex levels of significance; that take to unsuspected limits the ways of experimenting, that reach a very high metaphorical flight, a plural symbology born many times in the midst of moments of delirium, states of trances, tempestuousness. Although the structuring of messages in works such as these (given their brut or outsider nature) do not come from the most reasoned thinking or from the most common forms of the intellectual, but from the unconscious (where another type of thought dwells), we must say that also from these more hermetic, convoluted forms of expression, a will to communicate is projected, which expands towards different interpretative dimensions.

There is much that is contemporary in the gesture of overcoming a very strong desire to study art, of not being able to do so, but still manage to build, almost from the feverish, complex, fantastic compositions like the ones Deniyan (3) has made. There is a lot of contemporary in the way of approaching geometric abstraction -an expression that participates more in logical than emotional thinking- and to do it by the urgency of emptying delirium, compulsion, by dint of purely intuitive procedures as in the case of the pieces of Jesus (4) and Reyniel (5). There is also a lot of contemporary in the fact that a doctor (6) ends up stamping with ash and coffee, the entities and energies that he encounters from the interaction with his patients after sessions of traditional Asian medicine. There is a lot of bizarre and dazzle in all this.

And it is in those discordant aspects that can be found behind each work -which are not solely limited to formal, technical or aesthetic issues- that the contemporary is most strongly rooted; in that capacity to break with the obvious ways of reading creation, and to find forms that generally produce more enigmas than certainties.

Yenisel Osuna Morales


1. Adolf Wölfli (Switzerland, 1864-1930), one of the first artists recognized within Art brut. His work includes musical notations that contemporary experimental musicians have interpreted.

2. Kea Tawana (United States, 1935-2016), self-taught artist known for her work The Ark, a 3-story, 86-foot-long boat she built in Newark, New Jersey, beginning in 1982.

3. Deniyan Masa Tamayo. La Habana, 1989

4. Jesús Ávila Chávez. La Habana, 1962

5. Reyniel Quirce Hernández. La Habana, 1979

6. Máximo Martínez Rondón. Santiago de Cuba, 1989