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Art Exhibitions

Photo Brut: An Exhibition to Kick Off the New Decade

Photo Brut is an exhibition tracking the ever-evolving medium of photography in modern and contemporary art.

By Tatty Martin | 07 Feb 2021

Photo Brut is an exhibition currently showing at The American Folk Art Museum in Lincoln Square, New York. The exhibition opened its doors towards the end of January and showcases upwards of 400 works from over 40 contemporary artists.

Consisting of film director, Bruno Decharme’s extensive art brut photography collection, as well as other works including the museum’s own selection and artworks from American collectors, Photo Brut tracks the ever-evolving medium of photography in modern and contemporary art.

We take a look at this expansive exhibition and explore its resonance in the art world today. From injecting the fantastical with realism, to incorporating the eerie and the intimate, Photo Brut presents a unique approach for the new decade.


Installation view of “Photo Brut: Collection Bruno Decharme & Compagnie” at the American Folk Art Museum. Photographer, Olga Vysotkaya, American Folk Art Museum


About Photo Brut

The exhibition follows in the museum’s tradition of showcasing self-taught artists that do not necessarily sit at the forefront of the contemporary art scene. Unfamiliar names are integrated with established ones to tell a breadth of stories through photography, collage, sculpture and assemblage.

The title of the exhibition; “Photo Brut: Collection Bruno Decharme & Companie” takes its name from the art brut movement of the 1950s. Perhaps more significantly, it echoes the thoughts and aims of the movement in maintaining that academic training is not an essential prerequisite of being an artist, and can often have the adverse effect of stunting creativity. Just as art brut was ‘raw art’, Photo Brut is ‘raw photography’, showcasing the work of artists who work outside of academic tradition.


Untitled by Lee Godie - image courtesy of American Folk Art Museum and the artist


Photo Brut and The Subversive

The exhibition celebrates the subversive; the everyday becomes unfamiliar and otherworldly, whilst the make-believe becomes ordinary or at times, hyper-real. Collectively following this approach, the artists instil fantasy with realism as they narrate hard-hitting stories and visceral truths. From paper collage, to mixed media sculpture, to black and white photography, the exhibition is punctuated by an unnerving tone and an ominous aesthetic that verges on Surrealism.


Untitled by Elke Tangeen - image courtesy of the artist and La “S” Grand Atelier, Vielsalm


Photo Brut and Contemporary Art

Photo Brut sees works by prominent artists working throughout the 20th century, such as Steve Ashby and Marcel Bascoulard alongside works from emerging artists, Elke Tangeten and Valentin Simankov.  Elke Tangeten works onto old photographs and chromolithographs and embroiders onto elements of these images. The bright colours of Tangeten’s yarn, together with the shapes she embellishes, highlights different elements of the original works, and forms an aesthetic evocative of post-impressionist paintings.

Also altering the subject by means of adding materials is Japanese artist Ichiwo Sugino. However, unlike Tangeten, Sugino works directly onto his subject, which for the most part, is himself. He impersonates iconic faces ranging from Alfred Hitchcock and Marlon Brando to John Lennon and Keanu Reeves by adding adhesive tape to cover and add distinguishing features to his face. With himself as a canvas, Sugino’s transformations are at once humorous and uncanny. 


Various images posted to Ichiwo Sugino's Instagram account. Image courtesy of New York Times and the artist. 


Rise Art Artists Following the Photo Brut Approach

At Rise Art our ever-growing range of photographers span from the well-known to the emerging, from the abstract to the surrealist. One artist working to draw out elements of the peculiar hidden in the mundane is Ian Hoskin. Whether travelling through the middle east, or capturing his native Newcastle, Ian has a knack for pointing out the bizarre and the beautiful that can be found in the banal. In pieces such as Newcastle Covered Market and Grainger Market 2, Ian encourages the viewer to double take and notice that all is not as it seems in the rituals of everyday life.


Newcastle Covered Market by Ian Hoskin


In a similar way, French artist Etienne Clement creates work that gives the allusion of familiarity before welcoming the viewer in to his own constructed narratives. Merging fact with fiction, Etienne’s figurative portraits nod to traditional compositions and familiar scenes. Etienne plays on fantasy, naivety and humour as he assembles his sets from small figurines and other make-believe components to the backdrop of nude photography. Rich with detail, mystery and intrigue, Etienne’s photographs invite open-ended interpretations of his narratives.


Valentine Variation 47 by Etienne Clement


Echoing this humorous approach, Miguel Vallinas Prieto seeks to explore ‘the animal in all of us’. The instinctive comedy of combining an animal’s head with a human’s body is only enhanced by the expressions held by each of these animals. The dramatic backdrops and highly detailed finish of Miguel’s style results in a portfolio of humorous and attention-grabbing surrealist images.


Polca Number Fifty Nine by Miguel Vallinas Prieto


The Photo Brut exhibition displays just how the developments and accessibility of photography has made it a medium capable of capturing anything; of making a fleeting moment permanent, of giving life to the lifeless, or playing with the viewer’s understanding of the real and the imaginary.   

Rise Art artists echo this belief, with each presenting a new possibility, or a renewed perspective. Explore our artists that are constantly pushing forward to create ground-breaking and aw-inspiring work, and why not start with the work of Jenny Boot, Erik Brede and David Gilliver.


Pickin' Peppers by David Gilliver


Discover our full photography collection here.

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