King of the World, 2010
mixed media on paper
29.50 x 83.50 in. (74.93 x 212.09 cm)
Magic Circle, 2012
mixed media on canvas
59.84 x 59.84 in. (152 x 152 cm)
Doomsday Device, 2013
ink on napkins
50.39 x 52.97 in. (128 x 132 cm)
Born 1962, Kentucky.
George Widener’s artwork is as intellectually challenging as it is aesthetically compelling. A high-functioning savant who has channeled his extraordinary gifts of numerical computation into artmaking, Widener struggled for years before his talent was recognized. Born in Kentucky in 1962, Widener’s was not diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome until he was an adult, making an already difficult childhood even more so. Following a stint of service in the US Air Force, Widener was diagnosed with depression, and committed to several psychiatric hospitals. He eventually attended the University of Tennessee. He currently lives and works in Waynesville, NC, near Asheville.
Widener’s brain has been proven to function as a super-calculator, a gift that allows him to process mathematical information in a radically different way than most people do. By directing his impulse to calculate complex sequences of numbers through stunning, often large-scale drawings, Widener makes visible not only his savant skillset, but also his unique creative talent for reimagining it aesthetically. Far from mere illustrations of mathematical process, his drawings stage through form and content simultaneously, often playing out elaborate numerical puzzles and games, complex puns, palindromes, and informed prophecies. The artist’s love for punning is evidenced by drawings of magic squares: squares that contain 9 rows of numbers, in each row of numbers adds up to the same value.
Manipulating time as an artistic medium, Widener’s favored vehicle for processing mathematical, historical, and personal information is the calendar. He uses calendars to consider both linear and random historical patterns, giving as much weight to logic as to chance and synchronicity. Often staining patched-together napkins or scrolls with tea to affect the look of parchment, Widener creates preciously fragile compositions that seem torn from the pages of medieval manuscripts, each page layered with accident, palimpsests, and esoteric knowledge. His concern with the future has grown into creating elaborate games for the amusement of machines, whom he believes will gain the ability to think independently by 2050. Despite his relative youth, Widener has earned international recognition as one of the most significant Outsider Artists the world has seen.
- Jenifer P. Borum
2015, System and Vision, David Zwirner Gallery, New York
2014, George Widener: Time Lapse, Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York
2013, Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
2013, The Alternative Guide to the Universe, Hayward Gallery, London
2013, Secret Universe: George Widener, Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York
2013, George Widener: Secret Universe IV, Hamburger Bahnof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin
2011, World Transformers: The Art of the Outsiders, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt
2011, George Widener: Dates, Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York
2008, Elegant Obsessions - Outsider and Visionary Art, Orleans House, London
American Folk Art Museum, New York
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Halle Saint Pierre, Paris
Rugoff, Ralph, ed., The Alternative Guide to the Universe, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Publishing, London, 2013.
Patterson, Tom, "Art for the Super-Computers (and Other Audiences): The Obsessive Drawings and Calendrical Codes of George Widener," World Transformers: The Art of the Outsiders, Schirn Kunstalle, Frankfurt, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, 2010.
Cardinal, Roger, and Colin Rhodes, The Art of George Widener, exhibition catalogue, Henry Boxer Gallery, London, 2009.
Cardinal, Roger, "George Widener: An Obsession with Dates and Calendars," Raw Vision, No. 51, 2005.
Smith, Roberta, "Untamed Art From the Fringes is a Gust of Bracing Air," New York Times, January 28, 2005.