Purple Art

[February 18 2016]

An excerpt from Bjarne Melgaard’s new book “Psychopathological Notebook” now available at Karma, New York

Everyone in Paris saw it: L’art chez les fous. In droves, artists flocked to the groundbreaking International Exhibition of Psychopathological Art at the Sainte-Anne psychiatric hospital in 1950. Featuring over two thousand works by patients deemed mentally ill, this landmark event—organized on the occasion of the first International Congress of Psychiatry—marked a zenith point in the intensive interest paid to the art of the mentally ill by avant-garde artists throughout the twentieth century. So-called psychopathological art seemed to offer a pure embodiment of unadulterated expression, visionary innocence, and a subversion of conventional forms or classical culture.

Karel Appel was among the 10,000 visitors to the Psychopathological Art exhibition at the Sainte-Anne Hospital in 1950. Perplexed by the modest pamphlet containing only texts to commemorate this exhibition, Appel used this deeply loaded document as the backdrop for one of his most important works—his Psychopathological Notebook (1950). Temporarily inhabiting the subject position of the “insane” artist, Appel aggressively covered the theoretical and medical texts with his own spontaneously-drawn images.

Three generations later, Bjarne Melgaard revisited Appel’s iconic Psychopathological Notebook with an intensity that is almost Oedipal in its murderous aim at this long string of artistic forefathers. Melgaard attempts to annul the radicality of Appel’s original gesture by inflicting his own signature marks in a frenetic, aesthetic assault.

—From L’Art Chez Les Fous by Alison Gingeras
Psychopathological Notebook, 2016

See works from Bjarne Melgaard’s “Psychopathological Notebook” on show at Karma until February 28th.

Photo Bjarne Melgaard

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