Mark Francis: Sculptures from the Inside

August 3-October 8, 2017
Curated by Alison Amick and Matt Collinsworth

Mark Francis (American, b. 1960) Prison Blues, 2011. Papier-mâché and other media. Collection of the Kentucky Folk Art Center

Mark Francis (American, b. 1960) Prison Blues, 2011. Papier-mâché and other media.
Collection of the Kentucky Folk Art Center

Over more than 25 years of incarceration (1986-2014) for a murder conviction, Marvin (Mark) Francis taught himself to create fantastical papier-mâché sculptures of dramatic scenes and visions from inside prison. Using limited materials available—including toilet paper, crushed ramen noodles, nail clippers, paper clips and, eventually, mail-order wooden dowel rods—he depicted the social, emotional and psychological impacts of his life behind bars.

Mark Francis: Sculptures from the Inside examines a range of emotions and experiences from his incarcerated time in Kentucky state penitentiaries over more than two and half decades through eight sculptures, including the centerpiece, “Prison Blues” (2011) featuring a block of six jail cells occupied by inmates in a variety of provoking and unsettling states and activities.

A victim of child abuse, Francis has expressed that art has helped his healing process, and he, therefore, donates the majority of proceeds from artwork sales to programs that help break the cycle of all types of child abuse. Today, Francis lives and works in central Tennessee.

Visit the following link to read coverage of this exhibition: Chicago Tribune"Outsider art from the inside at Intuit"

Special thanks to the Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University for its generous loans of Mark Francis artworks from its permanent collection.


Betwixt and Between: Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls

April 12-September 4, 2017
Curated by Leisa Rundquist

Henry Darger (American, 1892-1973). Untitled, mid-twentieth century. Watercolor, pencil, carbon tracing, and collage on pierced paper, 24 x 106 ½ in. Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York, museum purchase with funds generously provided by John and Margaret Robson, 2004.1.3B, Photo Credit: James Prinz © American Folk Art Museum / Art Resource NY © 2017 Kiyoko Lerner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henry Darger (American, 1892-1973). Untitled, mid-twentieth century. Watercolor, pencil, carbon tracing, and collage on pierced paper, 24 x 106 ½ in. Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York, museum purchase with funds generously provided by John and Margaret Robson, 2004.1.3B, Photo Credit: James Prinz © American Folk Art Museum / Art Resource NY © 2017 Kiyoko Lerner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henry Darger’s Vivian girls and the thousands of others in his make-believe world exist in contradictory states; Darger positions these little “girls” somewhere between male and female, both biologically and socially. The Vivian girls’ ambiguous gender speaks broadly, and with rich complexity, to culture’s polarizing constructions of child/adult and male/female. Darger plays with these polarities and fabricates an extraordinary “child” beyond nature—capable of defeating bloodthirsty Glandelinians.

Visually, this plucky band of seven sisters are appropriated from popular images of childhood from early to mid-20th century American coloring books, comic strips and clothing advertisements. Darger, however, complicates their seemingly cute and innocent bodies with hand-drawn additions of male anatomy—a characteristic of “girls” in Darger’s fictional world that remains unexplained.  The Vivian girls’ intersexual nature and frequent nudity is certainly one of the most significant, yet puzzling, aspects of Darger’s art.

The exhibition features major works by Henry Darger that include double-sided, panoramic drawings with watercolor and collage spanning up to eight feet long, Vivian portraits, as well as traced images and resource materials from Intuit’s archives.

Visit the following links to read coverage of this exhibition:
Artsy "The Radical Message behind Henry Darger's Transgender Child Superheroes"
DNAInfo Chicago "Rahm Declares Today 'Henry Darger Day' to Honor Lincoln Park Artist"
Flash Art "Henry Darger"
Hyperallergic "Today is Henry Darger Day in Chicago"

Hyperallergic "The Sexual Ambiguity of Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls"
Newcity "Darger Never Disappoints: A Review of Betwixt and Between: Henry Darger's Vivian Girls at Intuit"

Windy City Times "Art Event Looks at Gender Mysteries in Artist Henry Darger's Works"
Windy City Times "Panel Looks at Gender, Sexuality in Darger's Art"

Click below to read "Vivam!: The Divine Intersexuality of Henry Darger's Vivian Girl", essay by Leisa Rundquist: 
Elsewhere: The International Journal of Self-Taught and Outsider Art

Special thanks to the American Folk Art Museum, New York, for its generous loans of Henry Darger artworks and archives.


Henry Darger: Source Materials

Collection of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Henry Darger Room Collection, HDRC80a

Collection of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Henry Darger Room Collection, HDRC80a

March 2-July 23, 2017
Curated by Alison Amick


Henry Darger was a native Chicagoan who spent part of his youth consigned to an "Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children" in Lincoln, Ill. As a young adult, he returned to Chicago, where he got a job as a janitor and lived a mostly-reclusive life in a one-room apartment in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Upon his death, Darger's landlords discovered something incredible: a striking 15,000-page graphic novel entitled In the Realms of the Unreal. The story chronicles the seven Vivian Girls, who lead a bloody rebellion against the child slavery of the evil Glandolinean Army. In spring 2000, Intuit took possession of the contents of Darger’s living and working space, which was installed as a permanent exhibition in 2008. Intuit’s Henry Darger Room Collection includes tracings, clippings from newspapers, magazines, comic books, cartoons, children’s books, personal documents, and architectural elements, fixtures, and furnishings from Darger’s original room. 

In 2017, Intuit celebrates the 125th anniversary of Henry Darger’s birth with Chicago’s Henry Darger, a yearlong series of exhibitions and programming. From its extensive collection of Darger’s source materials, Intuit has selected examples to highlight, some of which are on permanent view as part of the Henry Darger Room Collection. The use of source materials was central to Darger’s process. He carefully selected and traced images (from sources such as the coloring book pages on view)and reconfigured them to create new compositions: horns from a ram appear on his fantastical blengins, while images of young girls playing and engaging in daily activities become inspiration for the Vivian Girls and children in his narratives. The imaginative world of Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, Darger’s Roman Catholic faith, the weather, and the battle scenes and regalia of the American Civil War count among the artist’s diverse influences. Compare the source materials on view in this gallery with the original art work by Darger in the nearby exhibitions.

Visit the following link to read coverage of this exhibition:
The Huffington Post


Teacher Fellowship Program Student Exhibition

Postcard design by Sandra Mars

Postcard design by Sandra Mars

June 3-July 4, 2017
Curated by Joel Javier and Melissa Smith
 

Intuit's Teacher Fellowship Program Student Exhibition will showcase participants in the 2016-2017 Teacher Fellowship Program. Inspired by self-taught and outsider art, students transform found and non-traditional materials into art pieces that reflect their personal visions. Join us for a free, family-friendly opening reception on June 10.

The Teacher Fellowship Program is Intuit's award-winning professional development program for teachers from Chicago Public Schools that reaches more than 600 students across Chicago annually. The core value of the program is enabling teachers to give their students an opportunity to translate their personal vision to art-making using non-traditional materials in a non-judgmental environment: Each person has creative potential. By participating in the program, teachers collaborate with colleagues on a lesson plan to help their students integrate the characteristics of outsider art into cross-disciplinary arts learning. Intuit's Teacher Fellowship Program is sponsored in part by generous grants from Crown Family Philanthropies, Polk Bros Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art, Alphawood Foundation, and Driehaus Foundation.

The 18 teachers whose students will be represented in the exhibition are from nine participating Chicago Public Schools, including: Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School, John W. Garvy Elementary School, Morton School of Excellence, John Marshall Metropolitan High School, Ogden International School, José Clemente Orozco Community Academy, Vaughn Occupational High School, Thomas J. Waters Elementary School, and Wildwood IB World Magnet School.


Henry Darger (American, 1892-1973). COLONEL JACK F EVANS, mid-twentieth century. Watercolor, pencil, ink, and collage on board, 13 ¾ x 11 ½ in. Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York, museum purchase, 2002.22.5. © 2017 Kiyoko Lerner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo credit: Gavin Ashworth, © American Folk Art Museum/Art Resource, NY.

Henry Darger (American, 1892-1973). COLONEL JACK F EVANS, mid-twentieth century. Watercolor, pencil, ink, and collage on board, 13 ¾ x 11 ½ in. Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York, museum purchase, 2002.22.5. © 2017 Kiyoko Lerner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo credit: Gavin Ashworth, © American Folk Art Museum/Art Resource, NY.

January 20-May 29, 2017
Curated by Michael Bonesteel


In the juxtaposition of Henry Darger’s art and writings, audiences can explore how the artist approached related subjects in different mediums. Surprising to many, Henry Darger created very few works of art that depict specific episodes from his epic novel, Realms of the Unreal.

For example, he made numerous captioned references to a fictional location called “Jennie Richee” in his artwork, but there are only occasional brief mentions of this place in the Realms novel. Nothing significant happened at Jennie Richee in the written story, yet there are dozens of scenes depicting events occurring at Jennie Richee in his art. Therefore, it seems likely that his art was an extension of, and an improvisation on, his writing—more than it was an illustration of it.

Similar examinations of Darger’s writings and artwork have been performed in scholarly essays but never presented in a museum or gallery setting where viewers can see an actual work of art next to a facsimile of a corresponding page of text. In fact, pages from the Realms are almost never exhibited except for the occasional display of a Realmsvolume from the permanent collection of the American Folk Art Museum, so it is a rare opportunity to see Darger’s art and read his words in one and the same viewing.

Visit the following links to read coverage of this exhibition:
Chicago Gallery News
Newcity

Special thanks to the American Folk Art Museum, New York, for its generous loans of Henry Darger artworks and archives.


Adolf Wölfli (Swiss, 1864-1930). Untitled, 1928. Graphite and colored pencil on paper, 13 x 18 ½ in. Collection of Audrey B. Heckler. Photo by Visko Hatfield

Adolf Wölfli (Swiss, 1864-1930). Untitled, 1928. Graphite and colored pencil on paper, 13 x 18 ½ in. Collection of Audrey B. Heckler. Photo by Visko Hatfield

Unreal Realms

January 20-March 26, 2017
Curated by Jan Petry and David Syrek


As a jumping-off point, Unreal Realms takes the world Henry Darger imagined in his Tolkien-esque novel, In the Realms of the Unreal, and provides a view into the otherworldly places created in the artworks of Adolf Wölfli, A. G. Rizzoli, Charles A. A. Dellschau, Ken Grimes and Darger. The nature of these works, which often are described as “visionary,” call attention to their makers’ sensibilities and outlooks.

“The focus of this exhibit is to posit a group of artists, like Henry Darger, whose body of work was a narrative of an alternative reality,” said Jan Petry, who co-curated the exhibit with David Syrek.

According to the art critic and author of the exhibit’s accompanying essay, Edward Gómez, “To encounter even a single image by any one of these artists, all of whom were or are primarily picture-makers, is to enter into the distinctive, imaginary world to which each one of them gave lasting, visible form.”

Click below to view the exhibition catalog.

Visit the following link to read coverage of this exhibition:
Chicago Tribune