A lifetime of intricate connecting “story scrolls” on view at Intuit

June 21, 2019

A lifetime of intricate connecting “story scrolls” on view at Intuit

Drawing of a multicolored face with multicolored patterns and flowers in the background
Justin Duerr (American, b. 1976). Surrender to Survival (detail), 2018. Pen, marker and inks on paper, 25 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. Courtesy of the artist

June 21, 2019—CHICAGO—In 1999, Justin Duerr had an intense vision that revealed to him an extremely detailed, multi-character story. He’s spent his life since then building upon that manifestation, using marker and pen to draw intricate scenes, each a chapter of a larger narrative, on interconnected panels he refers to as “story scrolls.” This body of work currently consists of 28 scrolls that, when pieced together, span more than 100 feet in length.

In Justin Duerr: Surrender to Survival, opening Thursday, June 27, selections from the story scrolls will be on view at Intuit along with other drawings that invite visitors to dive deeper into Duerr’s artistry and imaginative, visual storytelling.

“I intend to continue adding to this ongoing piece until the time of my death. If I am physically able to, I plan to eventually connect the final panel to the first panel, so that the completed drawing, which will have been a life’s-work, will take the form of a cycloramic image with no clear beginning or end,” Duerr said

The scrolls and drawings incorporate poetry written by the artist and explore themes related to spirituality and the linear and cyclical nature of time. His output includes symbolic representatives of states of mind or non-mind with figures who evolve and appear throughout various works. In 1999, Duerr began drawing the detailed pen and marker scrolls. In 2008, Duerr started to connect the series of scrolls together, creating an elaborate story. This will be the largest exhibition of the scrolls to date and the first time they have been on view outside of Philadelphia.

“Art is the glue of civilization,” Duerr said in a recent call with Intuit’s Alison Amick, curator of the exhibition.

Duerr is an American artist, musician and writer. Born in Pennsylvania in 1976, Duerr grew up interested in diverse themes, including Egyptian mythology and art, oddities of pop culture, religion, and any physical peculiarities he could find near his parent’s rural property. In the early ’90s, Duerr dropped out of high school and moved to Philadelphia, at times squatting in abandoned buildings or working on fishing boats in the Bering Sea. In 1995, he began publishing a zine, which he continues to produce on an annual basis. Most recently, Duerr exhibited work at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (2017) and published a non-fiction book, The Temple of Silence: Forgotten Works & Worlds of Herbert Crowley. Along with his visual and literary art, Duerr is a member of three Philadelphia bands. He simultaneously continues to research mysterious art happenings, including the “Toynbee Tiles,” tile-like artworks fixed into the tar of streets throughout the world, most notably in Philadelphia. He appears in the Sundance award-winning feature-length documentary, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011), which will be screened at Intuit during the exhibition’s run.

Duerr will be on hand for a public reception held Thursday, July 25, from 5-8 p.m. at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. The museum will host an artist talk with Duerr on Saturday, July 27, at 1 p.m.


Established in 1991, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art is one of the premier museums of outsider and self-taught art in the world–with world class exhibitions; resources for scholars and students; a permanent collection of more than 1,200 works of art; the Henry Darger Room Collection; the Robert A. Roth Study Center, a non-circulating collection with a primary focus in the fields of outsider and contemporary self-taught art; and educational programming for people of all interest levels and backgrounds.

Intuit is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday and Monday school holidays, noon-5 p.m.