Notes on Art Brut


Art brut, also known as outsider art, is not merely an expression of “madness.” It goes beyond the constructs of language into a deeper realm of consciousness. It disobeys the formula of lines, color, and composition; it becomes itself as it deconstructs itself, as the audience attempts to find a reference that can name what they are seeing. For some, it is a process of breakthrough. For others, it is a process of breakdown.

According to Jean Dubuffet, author of “L’art brut préféré aux arts culturels,” art brut is “executed by people untouched by artistic culture . . . so that their authors draw everything (subjects, choice of materials employed, means of transposition, rhythms, ways of writing, etc.) from their own depths and not from clichés of classical art or art that is fashionable.” Jean Dubuffet recognized the merits of “madness” in art and invented the term by presenting his own collection of art brut to solidify its right to the creative landscape.


As the artist enters a state of expression, or divided consciousness, they turnover a new language that comes not only from their carnal selves, but from a place “unhinged,” free from the influence of consumable ideas, packaged for a singular experience.

Among other things, art brut asks you to challenge your comprehension of what art means, how meaning is structured through pattern and your understanding of what pattern does in accordance with what you’ve been told. In other words, art brut aims to reintroduce you to art.

The cathedral of the brut artist’s mind has not been traversed, trespassed, or stomped on by outsiders attempting to understand how art works, why it works, or if it can be replicated. Brut artists use unconventional materials that exist in their surroundings: toothpaste, food, bodily fluids; such materials add to the vibrancy of their renderings and the fantasy of a boundless imagination.

Art brut celebrates the ability of our minds to speak the language of chaos, to give it purchase in the physical world, where the internal structures, wild and unspoiled, can connect with the divided consciousness in us all.

By Erica Spriggs