Nearly one hundred years ago, artists without formal training “crashed the gates” of the elite art world, as the newspapers of their day put it. Their paintings of American life, as well as fantastical scenes derived from their imaginations, began appearing in major museums. Featuring more than sixty works from leading collections across the country, Gatecrashers will illuminate how artists including John Kane, Horace Pippin, and Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses overcame class-, race-, and gender-based obstacles to enter the inner sanctums of the mainstream art world. These early “gatecrashers” defied life circumstances that limited their access to art training and, thus, redefined who could be an artist in America.
Although Kane, Pippin, and Moses were the most celebrated artists during this first wave of mainstream art world interest (1927–1950), Gatecrashers also includes lesser-known artists who were recognized in this period, including Josephine Joy, Pedro López Cérvantez, and Morris Hirshfield. Thematic galleries will explore how these artists were embraced as examples of American creative excellence and how their occupational histories played a role in advancing their art careers against the backdrop of Depression-era populism. Their paintings will be connected throughout to works on view from the High’s leading collection of self-taught art to demonstrate how these artists paved the way for subsequent generations of self-taught artists in the twentieth century.
This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.