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He deftly forges strange, vicarious intimacies between viewers and the unlikely subjects of his paintings—from giants and insecure grasshoppers to an entire cast of fretting fowl. Such is one of artist Paul Edlin’s (1931 – 2008) many talents. Edlin beguiles warring, molten subjectivities into form as deftly as Hephaestus. It is perhaps this gift that imbues Edlin’s works with their unexpected lyricism.

Edlin is generally understood to be an “outsider artist,” and the reason for the classification is as fatuous as it is obvious: born deaf and having lived as a relative recluse, Edlin created many of his compositions entirely from sliced postage stamps. To marvel over his art on these grounds does not merely warrant censure as rank condescension; such sciolism misses a basic point: Edlin’s biography is far less compelling than the hominal curiosities explored within his œuvre, much of which is invested in laying bare the brief elations, muted disappointments, misapprehensions, and quiet struggles that bid for intimacy not only court but demand (this is perhaps why Moby Dick is an inspiration for several pieces). But Edlin is not the bard of domesticity. Not only are the intimacies he tenders unexpected, he is also skilled at conjuring the uncanny. Many of his compositions boast spectacular visions from worlds Hieronymus Bosch might have dreamt of, had his dreams been more kind.  

Edlin’s work has been described as lyrical. What makes it so is how it crowns subjectivity with an emphasis on perspective, on interests in common and those in conflict. Its principles and practice are an accidental monument to how what is meaningful is not always derived from brute determination or the complacency of established connections. Edlin’s work cultivates unexpected connections between subjects and even champions greater intimacies—between abstraction and figuration, narrative and symbolology—that are not just unexpected, but improbably lovely. Ultimately, Edlin’s work embodies what cannot be explained: how separate pieces connect, how a million fragments can seem a glimmering whole, and how even the most pedestrian medium can conjure visions lithe as a Chagall flight, as lapidary as Homeric hexameter.

Born 1931, New York, NY
Died 2008, New York, NY

 

EDUCATION

1972-1984
Art Students League, New York, NY [intermittently]
New School for Social Research, New York, NY [intermittently]

1965
B.S., Printing Management, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY

1955
Springfield College, Springfield, MA

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2014
Paul Edlin: Family Business, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

2007
Dreaming in Fragments: the Stamp Collages of Paul Edlin, Longyear Museum, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY

2004
Paul Edlin: Selected Works, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

2002
Paul Edlin: A Retrospective, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

2001
Postage Stamp Pictures, American Primitive Gallery, New York, NY

1998
Postage Stamp Pictures, American Primitive Gallery, New York, NY

1996
Collages: New England Debut for a New York Artist, Homer Mezzanine Gallery, Gordon College, Wenham, MA

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2009
In Through the Out Door, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

2007
Witness, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
25th Art Brussels Contemporary Art Fair, Andrew Edlin Gallery, Brussels, Belgium

2006
5 Year Anniversary Group Show, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
Outsider Art Fair, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

2005
Holy H2O, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD

2003
Booth 529, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY

2002
W,X,Y,Z of Outsider Art, Edlin Fine Art, New York, NY

2001
Bits and Pieces: Mosaic Makers, Edlin Fine Art, New York, NY
Compelled, Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, NJ
Remembrance and Ritual, Makor Gallery, New York, NY
Outsider Art Fair, American Primitive Gallery, New York, NY

2000
Toronto International Art Fair, Andrew Edlin Gallery, Toronto, Canada
Treasures of the Soul: Who Is Rich?, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
New Acquisitions, Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland
Art Miami, Andrew Edlin Gallery, Miami, FL

1998
Love: Error and Eros, American Visionary Arts Museum, Baltimore, MD
Outsider Art Fair, American Primitive Gallery, New York, NY

1997
Methods and Materials, Arlene Bujese Gallery, East Hampton, NY
Global Outsider Art, Judy Saslow Gallery, Chicago, IL
Birds, American Primitive Gallery, New York, NY
Outsider Art Fair, American Primitive Gallery, New York, NY

1996
Miniature Obsessions, American Primitive Gallery, New York, NY

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

1999
Dawson, D.T., The New Mosaics, Asheville: Lark Books.

1996
Collages: New England Debut for a New York Artist [exhibition catalogue], Manchester-by-the-Sea: Cricket Press.

SELECTED ARTICLES

2014
Shilling, Alana, "Strange Intimacies," Brooklyn Rail, March 4.

2002
Karlins, N.F., "Paul Edlin," Artnet Magazine, September 27.

2001
McBee, Richard, "Today's Jewish Folk Artists: Remembrance and Ritual -Jewish Folk Artists of Our time: Makor Gallery," American Guild of Judaic Art, April 3.

1999
Cotter, Holland, "Art In Review," New York Times, November 26.

1998
Silver, Sara, "Finding Art in all the Hidden Places: Society's 'Outsiders' Create World of Art and Beauty," Associated Press, Cleveland, September 28.

1997
Cotter, Holland, "Art In Review: Little Things Mean A Lot, Miniature Obsessions," New York Times, January 10.

1996
"Obsessions," The Villager, December 18.

AWARDS & HONORS

1995
Richard Florsheim Art Fund, Grant

1994
Jerome Foundation, New York Initiative, Grant

SELECTED PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland
Musée de la Communication, Bern, Switzerland
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

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