Voice over


I like a little irony in my art. But every so often I need something more full throttle. Right now I’m reading “The Art of Adolf Wolfli,” the catalog for the current exhibit of work by the Swiss outsider artist (at the American Folk Art Museum in New York until May 18). Spending time with Wolfli’s churning world of no-holds-barred art –even in book form–makes you wonder about artists’ voices. All artists have them, so why are some voices clear and others masked? Is a mask a voice? Is a technique or style a voice (e.g. Alex Katz, Giacometti)? Does a voice change over time? Can you have more than one? Do you have to be crazy to have one?

Voice doesn’t equate with message, although it seems that artists with the clearest voices have a message — like Wolfli with his autobiographical song of the self — or the activist artists in the upcoming “Urban Sanctuaries” project in North Philadelphia. “Sanctuaries,” with work by Pepon Osorio and Iris Brown, Doris Noriega-Rogers and Jonas dos Santos will reclaim vacant lots and transform them into zones for community and for contemplation. (Sponsored by Philadelphia Art Alliance and Taller Puertorriqueno, an “Indoor “Sanctuaries” exhibit by the same artists opens Thursday, May 15, at the PAA.) I’m afraid I’ll miss that Wolfli exhibit in New York but I’m not going to miss those Sanctuary voices.


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