Singular Visions: Images of Art Brut from the Anthony J. Petullo Collection

September 16 - December 31, 2006
Curated by Katherine Murrell

The forty-two works in this exhibition were from Anthony J. Petullo's collection of European and American works by self-taught artists, loosely classified as Art Brut. Coined in the 1940s by French artist Jean Dubuffet, Art Brut (today often known by its English translation, "outsider art") refers to works created by individuals with no formal art training and no consciousness of art world traditions.

Many of these artists produced their bodies of work while institutionalized, including Swiss artist Adolph Wölfli (1864-1930), who during his 35 years in an asylum created a massive volume of colorfully intricate compositions. Others were isolates and loners. For more than forty years Chicago artist Henry Darger (1892-1973) worked as a menial laborer, attended Catholic Mass, and lived in virtual isolation. This seemingly benign existence belied his keenly obsessive artistic output. His 15,000 page epic of good versus evil, "In The Realms Of The Unreal," was illustrated with meticulous watercolors and was discovered by his landlord at the time of Darger's departure for an elderly care facility. Artists such as Madge Gill were inspired to create by spiritual muses. Gill believed that she could communicate with the dead, and the creation of her ornate drawings was guided by a spirit.

Singular Visions also featured other major artists within the Art Brut canon such as Martin Ramirez, Scottie Wilson, Michel Nedjar, Anna Zemánkozá, and Gugging artists.

Click here to read the guide for this exhibition.

Take Me to the River

September 15, 2006 - January 6, 2007
Curated by Ken Burkhart

This exhibition celebrated the life and spirit of Intuit. Take Me to the River examined the art of the 60s and 70s, a time that witnessed a convergence of energy in Chicago that shed light on the wondrous and enigmatic creations of self-taught artists such as William Dawson, Lee Godie, Aldo Piacenza, Drossos Skyllas, Justin McCarthy, and Joseph Yoakum, among others. Through related symposia and an exhibition catalogue, Take Me to the River brought together some of the artists, historians, curators and collectors who inspired the birth of Intuit.

Revelation! The Quilts of Marie "Big Mama" Roseman

May 5 - September 2, 2006
Co-curated by Doug Stock and Martha Watterson

The quilts and textiles of Marie “Big Mama” Roseman (1898 – 2004) are reflective of the African-American quilt tradition. Using embroidered and appliquéd animals, figures, and symbols applied with a thick yarn, Roseman produced illustrations with fabric and incorporated found materials such as plastic and cloth flowers, lace, and buttons. Big Mama’s quilts are a compendium of her history and her work as a midwife, herbalist and seamstress.

Marie Roseman grew up in Tippo, Mississippi, married, had four children, then moved to Benton Harbor, Michigan in 1947. Roseman was in her 70s when she began creating her rich, illustrative quilts and textiles. Later, much of her work was destroyed in a flood. Revelation! represented the first solo exhibition of this unique body of work.

Click here to read the guide for this exhibition.

Accidental Mysteries: Extraordinary Vernacular Photographs

January 13 - April 29, 2006
Curated by John Foster

The photos in this show consisted of 65 enigmatic vintage snapshots from the John and Teenuh Foster collection of vernacular photography. Taken by anonymous amateurs, these snapshots have been discovered by the Fosters, who collect them from a variety of places such as antique shops, thrift stores, estate sales, and online auctions. Consisting of subject matter that ranges from pets to posed family portraits, many of the snapshots include accidental double exposures and other darkroom mistakes, which create unintentionally idiosyncratic compositions. The curious history behind the origins of these found images prompts speculation from the viewer, who is left to ponder the mysterious circumstances in which these photographs came to be.

Focusing on found snapshots celebrates the non-artist as creator. John Foster notes that the images have a "democratic way of revealing the world." Examined outside family albums, wallets, or keepsake frames, these images can and often do take on new meanings that differ dramatically from those they were originally meant to convey.

Click here to view photos of the exhibition on Flickr.

In the Eyes of Mr. Dawson

January 13 - March 25, 2006
Curated by John Cain

Sculptor William Dawson grew up in Huntsville, Alabama but spent most of life in Chicago. Dawson worked for thirty-five years as a produce distributor in the South Water Street market where he became the first black member of the Teamster Union. It was not until he semi-retired in 1965 at the age of 64 that he began to seriously devote his time to art. Working part-time as a security guard, Dawson passed his time by carving wood figures. When he retired completely, he focused all his energy on creating sculptures of men and women that range in size from several inches to several feet. Dawson's figures evoke a sense of toy-like playfulness while still remaining rooted in the everyday.

Curator John Cain, Executive Director of the Northern Indiana Arts Association, drew from the resources of local collectors to assemble this exhibition. Not since the artist's retrospective at the Chicago Cultural Center in January 1990, held a few months before Dawson's death, had an exhibition focused on his eclectic work.

Click here to view photos of the exhibition on Flickr.