contribution to this show, meanwhile, is a delightful crowd scene created by her own great-grandmother, Esther Hamerman. It’s apparently meant to depict the frenzied action at a sports game, and yet there’s an undercurrent of strange menace in the drawing. As Laster noted, the vibe it shares with Eisenman’s own gently surreal figuration is undeniable.
What makes mainstream artists so interested in collecting work by those who toiled well outside typical channels and institutions? Laster cited the prominence and popularity of recent exhibitions that privileged outsider art, from the Massimiliano Gioni–curated central exhibition at the 2013 Venice Biennale to the touring show “Outliers and American Vanguard Art.” But there’s also personal appeal. “From my conversations with artists who collect this material, there is usually a fascination with the self-taught artist’s humble lifestyle, inventiveness of ideas, and sacrifices that they make for their art,” Laster said. Established artists “are attracted to this work because they see it as pure, not made for a market—made from obsession, vision, and a sense that it had to be made.”