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Artworks by Judith Scott, Adolf Wölfli, George Widener, Henry Darger, Miroslav Tichý, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Horst Ademeit are currently on view in L’énigme autodidacte at the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Etienne Métropole.

What motivates the decision to create art? From what, from whom and how do we learn? What is the role of the context in which the person lives, their daily acts and experiences? Drawing on recent theoretical contributions from the educational sciences, the exhibition sheds new light on the role of autodidacticism, in French “autodidaxie”, that is to say “the action of learning without a master”, in an artistic journey. It focuses on the creative process and the sometimes heterodox methods and practices adopted by artists who learn by themselves.

Video (french) : L’exposition “L’Énigme autodidacte” au MAMC+ Saint Étienne Métropole

With artworks by : Georges Adéagbo, Horst Ademeit, Raymonde Arcier, Marcel Bascoulard, Ben, Adelhyd van Bender, Guillaume Bijl, Irma Blank, Alighiero Boetti, Christian Boltanski, Marcel Broodthaers, Frédéric Bruly-Bouabré, Sophie Calle, Maurizio Cattelan, Ferdinand Cheval, Roberto Cuoghi, Henry Darger, Justine Emard, Robert Filliou, Richard Greaves, Chauncey Hare, Seydou Keïta, Bodys Isek Kingelez, Yves Klein, Emma Kunz, Jean Le Gac, Gianni Motti, Tania Mouraud, Arnold Odermatt, Francis Palanc, Présence Panchounette, Gianni Piacentino, Carol Rama, Jean-Pierre Raynaud, Carole Roussopoulos, Jean-Michel Sanéjouand, Judith Scott, Ceija Stojka, Miroslav Tichý, Jeanne Tripier, Wendy Vainity, Galaxia Wang, George Widener, Adolf Wölfli.

Henry Darger - © christian berst — art brut

Henry Darger

Henry Darger is 4 years old when his mother dies giving birth to his little sister whom he will never see. At 7, his father sends him to a home where violence and bullying reign, then to an asylum for retarded children from which he escapes. In the early 1920s, he joined a Chicago hospital as a janitor and stayed there until his retirement in 1963. At the age of 19, he began writing a saga of more than fifteen thousand pages entitled Royaumes de l’Irréel (Kingdoms of the Unreal), which describes the struggle of the Vivian sisters, helped by Captain Henry Darger, against the evil adults, the Glandeliniens. He illustrates this epic with huge plates drawn on both sides, decorated with[…]

george widener - © christian berst — art brut

George Widener

A former U.S. Air Force technician, chronically depressed and antisocial, it is only when he reached his thirties that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. His syndrome is characterized by an eidetic memory that allows him to insert in his works a lot of data, especially encrypted, relating to his favorite subjects. Time, magic squares, the Titanic, and fictional megalopolises are among the recurring themes of his drawings. Present, among others, in the collections of the Smithsonian (Washington), his art has been shown at the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris, in the cult exhibition Le Bord des Mondes or in Alternative Guide to the Universe at the Hayward Gallery in London. In 2024, he was exhibited at Lafayette Anticipations (Paris).

adolf wölfli - © christian berst — art brut

Adolf Wölfli

Adolf Wölfli is the emblematic figure of 20th century art brut, author of more than 1,500 drawings and of a 25,000-page biography. He has built a personal and complex universe, where he reinvents his past and projects a utopian future, colonized to the edge of space. The richness and excess of this work cause vertigo. The list of artists he fascinates is long (among them Jean Dubuffet, Annette Messager, Arnulf Rainer), and an echo to his presence in the collections of the Musée National d’Art Moderne (France), Prinzhorn collection (Germany), and the LaM (France). As André Breton pointed out, this is “one of the three or four major works of the 20th century.”

Miroslav Tichý - © christian berst — art brut

Miroslav Tichý

Trained in academic painting, Tichý secretly engaged in photography only in 1970. Obsessive, if not fetishistic, he photographs women surreptitiously with the camera he built. His blurry photographs, sometimes enhanced with a pen border, are part of an immutable process, to which he adhered until the 1990s. Discovered by Roman Buxbaum, he was soon supported by Harald Szeemann. In 2005, he received the discovery prize at the Rencontres d’Arles and was given a major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou three years before his death. In 2019, he is again presented in Arles for the exhibition event, Photo brut.

judith scott huging her artwork. - © christian berst — art brut

Judith Scott

Judith Scott was born with a Down Syndrome into a middle-class family in Cincinnati, Ohio. Following an attack of Scarlet Fever in infancy, she lost her hearing, although this would not be recognized until many years later. She spent the first 7 years of her life in her home and with her twin sister before she was sent in an institution for handicap children. She lived 35 years separated from her family, until in 1986, her twin sister became her legal tutor and moved with her in California. Judith got into the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, where after two years, she starts producing original sculptures by collecting diverse objects, from all size and shape. She would wrap them,[…]

L’énigme autodidacte,

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