whitehot | March 2009, Interview with Julien Raffinot: Galerie Impaire
47 Rue de Lancry
Paris, France, 75010
The Creative Growth Art Center opened its doors almost 35 years ago to the unexplored world of outsider art, turning a dream into a three-dimensional reality by helping the artistic careers of artists with different kinds of disabilities in the Bay Area. Through the program, those who, to mainstream society, seem an enigma hard to unwrap, become conscious of their artistic abilities and their repercussions on the viewers, with whom they are able to engage in symbiotic communication via art.
This past June 2008, Creative Growth opened their first gallery in Europe, making a transatlantic move to Paris in the shape of Galerie Impaire. A gallery that will allow an intersection between art from mentally or physically disabled artists from America and the flowing Parisian art crowds. Their newest show "Communication Breakdown" (Led Zeppelin reference aside) plays with letters, symbols, sounds or the lack thereof. It opened late September, and is the result of a collaborative effort between the Edwin Gallery in NYC and Galerie Impaire. Simultaneously, on the gallery's secondary space the visitors are able to witness a show by San Francisco artist William Scott, whose paintings are a series of contemporary gospel like portraits of his community, and whose cityscapes show a delightful obsession for colour and shape.
Galerie Impaire positively breaks walls and boundaries, enabling us to stop differentiating “outsider” from “contemporary”. No one wants to be tagged and integration is currently up to date.
I got the chance to stop by Galerie Impaire during the Paris Fashion Week, and spoke to Julien Raffinot who spends his day surrounded by the works exhibited and over a muffin and raw chocolate calmly explained what the gallery meant to him.
Gala Knorr: How did feel the French public has welcomed you? Do you feel you are modern pioneers?
Julien Raffinot: The operative mission of Galerie Impaire is to promote the work of Creative Growth Artists. In doing so we seek to educate people, by making them more aware of the potential that exists in every community to assist and inspire the people that need it most. In respect to the Art World, we want to expand the “playing field”, by continuing the effort of integrating the “outsiders” into the Contemporary Art. It is a pioneering project in a way, and very much in keeping with the vision of Creative Growth. People are very receptive to it on the whole, and we have already garnered a lot of support.
GK: The current show “Communication Breakdown” has work from contemporary artists and artists with disabilities. None of them are tagged with any type of name or title. Has the public felt any difference between works?
JR: “Communication Breakdown” is only our second show, but it is a perfect model for the types of projects we want to do. The idea was to put the work up without explicitly indicating origin or affiliations of the Artists. People cannot always tell one way or another, whether the artist is disabled or the type of disabilities involved. It is a gratifying show, and my respect goes to the curators, Blain Vandenberg and Phillip March Jones.
GK: Is the gallery thinking of opening a working space like in the Creative Growth Art Center to let European artists with disabilities work on their art?
JR: We do not currently have any plans to start another Art Center in Paris like our facility in Oakland, but we encourage anyone with the willingness to do so. Creative Growth has grown slowly over a period of thirty years, out of a garage in Oakland, so we do not expect anything to happen over night, but with the Government subsidies available to many E.U. affiliated countries, the possibility for more rapid development is realistic, and in many ways necessary.
GK: What kind of position do you think outsider art has in the current art scene?
JR: In the last ten years, the market and interest for “Outsider” Art has considerably expanded, especially with ascendance of Henry Darger. The influence of this phenomenon in Contemporary Art (as well as Comics) is undeniable, and it seems to me that the distinction between what Jean Dubuffet called “ Art Brut” and what is broadly referred to today as Contemporary Art, is not as necessary as it was when he was creating his collection. It was important for him to emphasize the difference then in order to distinguish himself and his project, but his efforts and those of his followers have yielded promising results. The gray area between what is “in” and what is “out” has also greatly expanded to the point now where it has become harder to draw the line.
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Gala Knörr was born in 1984 in the Basque Country, Spain. She lived in London during her last two High School years, and coursed her studies in Art & Design in Richmond University in London for a year. The following year she moved to Paris and graduated from Parsons School of Design with a BFA Fine Arts. In the past four years in Paris she has been involved in various art shows as an artist and curator. She also started the DJ collective "Bohemian Inc." famous for celebrating the neverending life of rock & roll music, and became part of "Team Lofi" (an International Photo Collective that uses vintage cameras). On April 2007, her first solo art show "TURN ON TUNE IN" opened its doors with great success. In words of Calvin Johnson (K Records founder & Beat Happening's famous baritone) "all of Paris is weeping because it has been too many centuries of hard work to attract a Gala Knörr to it's shores, now the time has come and such a relief is felt, deep inside." Currently Knörr lives and works between southern Spain and the french capital. firstname.lastname@example.org
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