In responding to a friend’s question regarding outsider art and outlier art, my thoughts led me on this, perhaps circuitous route:
yes, outsider is commonly used to denote untrained —and also, mentally ill, disabled —->
Which is distinct from outlier— the outliers not being part of the mainstream — which is tricky when the linear narrative is rewritten.
And of course all is relative as the Chicago guys were outliers to the New York guys but had quite a lot of support, recognition, critical acclaim and if one were coming up in Chicago as a young artist, it would not have been outlier in the sense that that was a very influential language; in fact, the currency of the day was Hairy WHo – Jim Nutt was the Chicago canon.
The closest to de Forest whom I would label with outlier would be, perhaps W.C. Westerman — he truly was in his own head.
I am afraid I hesitate to label because people like Barry McGee are so savvy, in the system, and mainstream for the times. And maybe that is it, one generation breaking ground and setting a path. Or it is just how time twists and turns the inside outside, forgetting artists who swam in the middle of mainstream and shifting to include those who had been peripheral figures.
I think the way artists of my generation acknowledged the influence of comics, both of the marvel and underground sort ( and the guston generation before us looking to herriman/krazy kat ) so today’s xyzers have their street heroes. there is a lot of discussion of banksy but i don’t think much interest in materials— the image is sufficient— so I could not draw a line from de forest’s paint from the tube peaks of color to the smoothly sprayed graphics of millennials.
But it is always most interesting to view the unexpected in outlier artists who focus only on what engages them and eschew the dialogue of the work of the mainstream.
What also occurs to me is how much I miss the humor in work done off the chart.