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At the end of World War II, Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985) began exhibiting paintings that defied entrenched artistic values. He rejected principles of decorum and classical beauty, along with pretentions of expertise. Instead, he looked to the commonplace and the unheralded, employing crude materials, mundane subjects, and a style that spurned any outward sign of academic training. In this approach, Dubuffet was challenging norms that he believed obstructed authentic expression and devalued everyday experience. However, his goal was not only to reveal how threadbare cultural conventions were; he also wanted to illustrate the vitality of life freed from them. As he once claimed, “I would like people to see my work as a rehabilitation of scorned values and . . . make no mistake about it, a work of ardent celebration.”

Throughout his career, Dubuffet’s output was characterized by this celebratory impulse, as much as it was by his commitment to critiquing culture. His work of the 1940s and 1950s invited audiences to fundamentally reconsider the concept of beauty, and it demonstrated how worthy of admiration ordinary things could be—whether rocks, crumpled aluminum foil, or thickened paint. From the 1960s through the mid-1970s, Dubuffet showed the potential for adventure, creativity, and discovery that can be unleashed by diving into fantasy. For the last decade of his life, he strove to inspire a rethinking of the most basic structures of the mind, as he imagined the possibilities of approaching the world without the constraints of learned categories. This exhibition, drawn entirely from the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, offers a survey of his production from these defining decades. It seeks to affirm that across Dubuffet’s shifts in focus, he kept his ever-evolving project grounded in its dedication to sharing new and revitalizing perspectives with viewers.

Curator: David Max Horowitz

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