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Known/Unknown: Private Obsession and Hidden Desire in Outsider Art

Known/Unknown: Private Obsession and Hidden Desire in Outsider Art showcases over 100 rarely seen works by self-taught artistic masters – so called ‘outsider artists’ – who have worked outside the continuum of art history. The exhibition features photographs, sculptures and paintings which provide provocative and sometimes disturbing insight into the psychological terrain of their creators. Featured artists include: Robert Anderson, Steve Ashby, Morton Bartlett, Gil Batle, Eugene von Bruenchenhein, Henry Darger, Thornton Dial, Ike Morgan, Aurie Ramirez, Marilena Pelosi, Miroslav Tichý, Edwin Lawson, Johann Korec, Johann Garber and Royal Robertson.


The art in Known/Unknown is a long way from the typical art world. Many of the artists in the exhibit are self-taught, with little formal education, and range from institutionalized mental patients, to intellectually disabled people, to untutored isolates and eccentrics. Their pieces were often created in seemingly unlikely places; ranging from the sanctuary of psychiatric hospitals to private realms hidden within the lonely, impersonal jungles of teeming cities.


Overall, the work is fueled by secrecy and isolation, resulting in imagery that is far from ordinary experiences of sexuality. And since information about the makers and their objects is often fragmentary with many bodies of work discovered after the death of the artist, in many cases there is no way to know if the makers intended the work for public display. Visitors are left to determine for themselves whether they are actually encroaching on the remnants of these unconventional artists’ most private thoughts.


One of “The Five Most Anticipated New York Art Museum Exhibits of Winter 2017”
Forbes Magazine

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Erotic sculptural figures by Steve Ashby, who did not begin his life as an artist until after the death of his wife in 1960. Pieces on view include Rocking Bed Cunnilingus Whirligig and Masturbating Man with Hand Under a Woman’s Blouse, both of which give animated reign to Ashby’s sexual fantasies, as well as Woman and Dog, a sculpture of a woman in a compromising position with a dog, which exemplifies the more tongue-in-cheek elements to the sexual acts in Ashby’s work.


  • A collection of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s erotic photographs of his wife Marie. The black and white prints are stylistically reminiscent of the1940s pin-up and convey a loving playfulness between the photographer and his subject that is both titillating and profound.


  • Grainy photographs taken of unsuspecting women by recluse Miroslav Tichý, considered the master of the stolen image in his hometown of Kyjov (Czech Republic). The technical imperfections of the prints are a result of Tichý’s crude construction of his own homemade cameras out of shoeboxes and toilet paper rolls.


  • Ike Morgan—a Texan artist with chronic schizophrenia—creates nearly-pornographic images of female subjects ensconced in buzzing abstract patterns, which might be read as bed sheets or the noise of sexual desire made tangible.


  • Also on display is Henry Darger’s watercolor At Sunbeam Creak/At Wickey Lansinia, which is abound with images of little girls, at times subjected to horrible tortures at the hands of male adult oppressors—a theme that is possibly related to the artist’s own childhood traumas growing up in an orphanage, and later an asylum. The piece was among 15,000 pages of text and hundreds of drawings and watercolors discovered by Darger’s landlord shortly before the artist’s death.




We would like to thank the following lenders:

Fred Blair and Patrick Ryan

Michael Boruch

Creative Growth Center

Delmes & Zander, Berlin/Cologne

Ted Degener

Cheryl Dunn

Galerie Gugging, Austria

Henry Boxer Gallery

Ike Morgan

Lewis and Jean Greenblatt, Chicago

Emily Harris

Marion Harris, New York

Just Folk Collection

The MARVILL Collection

Private New York Collection

Andrew Lemeshewsky, Jr.

Aurie Ramirez

Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York

Robert A. Roth

Shrine Gallery (NYC)

Webb Gallery, Waxahachie, TX

John and Barbara Wilkerson

Jessica Yu




Chief Curator

Frank Maresca


Exhibition Design

John Monaco


Associate Curator

Lissa Rivera


Curatorial Assistant

Lucy Weisner


Introduction and Text

Colin Rhodes, PhD


Artistic Director

Serge Becker


Director of Exhibitions

Mark Snyder


Logo Design

Berger & Wild


Production and Design Assistance

Scott Stevenson Wilson
Jun De La Cruz
Jason Volenec
Trey Tyler
Cletis Chatterton
Kayla Camstra
Joey Agostinacchio



Hervé Descottes for L’Observatoire

W Magazine

Stephanie Exchardt, January 3, 2017



Adam Lehrer, January 5, 2017



Edward Gomez, January 13, 2017



Susan Moore, January 15, 2017


The Wall Street Journal

Charles Passy, January 17 2017


Curbed NY

Rachel Sugar, January 18, 2017


Guest of a Guest

Mackenzie Johnson, January 18, 2017


Bedford and Bowery

Daniel Maurer, January 19, 2017



Kasey Caminiti, January 19, 2017


Fashion Unfiltered

Aria Darcella, January 19, 2017



Scott Indrisek, January 20, 2017


The Creators Project

Kara Weinstein, January 20, 2017


The Knockturnal

Dalton Taylor, January 21, 2017


Artnet News

Sarah Cascone, January 21, 2017



Lanee Lee, January 26, 2017


The Art Newspaper

Victoria Stapley Brown, January 26, 2017


Raw Vision

Raw Vision Staff, January 27, 2017



Alex Jovanovich, January 31, 2017



January 19, 2017 – September 16, 2017