Outsider Art Fair
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Carlo Zinelli

Italian, 20th century.
Born 1916, Verona, Italy; died 1974, Verona, Italy.


Carlo is one of the most historically significant Outsider Artists, and his work testifies to the strong connection between language and creativity. Born in Verona in 1916, Carlo suffered trauma in the Spanish Civil War, and also during World War II. He was hospitalized for schizophrenia in 1947, and is noted to have experienced great difficulty with basic communication. He began to make paintings that have long been celebrated not only for their undeniable visual power, but also for evidencing strong linguistic patterns. His classic oeuvre reminds us that for Outsiders Artists, art and language are often experienced as the same process.

In 1955, Carlo was observed drawing on the wall of his asylum courtyard with nails and bricks. He was encouraged to make art by a visiting artist, and soon began to flourish in the hospital art studio provided for patients, which provided paper, pen, gouache, and and creative sanctuary. His paintings are cryptic, visually dynamic puzzles in which figures, animals, architectural structures, and language fragments combine to suggest strong, yet untranslatable utterances in a mysterious language known only to the artist.

Scholar Maria Azola has identified four distinct periods of his work: an initial phase (1957-60) during which he began to draw and paint his signature silhouetted figures in ordered clusters; a second phase (1960-64) in which the artist worked on a larger scale to develop more complex compositions, including collage; a third phase (1965-7) marked by a loosening of his previous system of linguistic/compositional ordering; and a fourth, phase (1968-74) in which he produced his most mature, integral works. Carlo left a legacy of over 3,000 works that continue to invite us into a rich yet unpredictable conversation.

- Jenifer P. Borum


Selected Exhibtions

2017, Carlo Zinelli (1916-1974), American Folk Art Museum, New York

2016, As Essential As Dreams: Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Stephanie and John Smither, The Menil Colection, Houston

2014, Do the Write Thing, Read Between the Lines, Christian Berst Gallery, Paris

2013, The Museum of Everything, 55th Venice Biennale, Venice

2011, Carlo Zinelli: A Convulsive Beauty, Christian Berst Gallery, Paris

2009, Art, Genius and Madness, Santa Maria Della Scala Museum Complex, Siena, Italy; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

2008, Glossolalia: Languages of Drawing, Museum of Modern Art, New York

2006, Inner Worlds Outside, traveling exhibition, Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundacíon "La Caixa," Madrid; WhiteChapel Gallery, London; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

2005, Dubuffet & Art Brut, traveling exhibition, Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf, Germany; Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne; Museum of Modern Art Lille Metropole, Villeneuve D'Ascq, France

1997, Art Brut, From the Underground to the Consecration, Musée D'Etenographie, Geneva

1992, Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles

Selected Collections

Anthony Petullo Collection, Milwaukee
L'Arcaine Collection, Lille Métropole Musée d'art moderne, d'art contemporain, et d'art brut, Villeneuve d'Ascq
Arnulf Rainer Collection, Vienna
Collection abcd, Paris
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago
Musée de la Création Franche, Bègles
Museum Dr. Guislain, Ghent
Olomouc Museum of Art, Olomouc (Czech Republic)

Selected Bibliography

Inner Worlds Outside, exhibition catalogue, Fundacíon "La Caixa," WhiteChapel Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art & Ediciones El Viso, Madrid, 2006.

Dubuffet & Art Brut, 
exhibition catalogue, 5 Continents Editions & Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, 2005.

Petullo, Anthony, Self-Taught and Outsider Art: The Anthony Petullo Collection, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 2001.

Thévoz, Michel, The Art Brut CollectionLausanne, Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich, 2001.

Azzola Inaudi, Maria, "Carlo Zinelli: Writing In Paper, Recitar, Cantando," Raw Vision, #29, Winter 1999.

Tuchman, Maurice, Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1992.

Andreoli, Vittorino, "Les Dernières Années de Carlo," L'Art brut, fascicle 11, Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, 1977.

Andreoli, Vittorino, "Carlo," L'Art brut, fascicle 7, Compagnie de l'Art Brut, Paris, 1966.

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