Behind the work of James Edward Deeds, born in 1908 in Springfield, Missouri, lies the tragic story of a young American whose exceedingly authoritarian father decided to have him committed to a psychiatric institution when he was 17 after a violent altercation with his brother. Deeds spent the rest of his life in an asylum, undergoing shock treatment–without any anaesthesia–up to twice a week. His pencil and crayon drawings with their meticulous, quaintly-styled lines on small sheets of hospital letter-headed paper show figures, references to the civil war, automobiles and urban landscapes in a rural setting, an imaginary world–the world he used as an escape from his broken life. Yet his portraits bear the stigmata of his treatment with psychotropic drugs, attested to by the wide-open eyes with dilated pupils.
Hailed by the US press, including Art in America and the New York Times, as soon as his work was discovered, Deeds is now considered a “classic Art Brut artist” of the 20th century. After the catalogue raisonné of his work was published, a documentary made by Neville Bean and Robert Vandeweghe, The Mystery of the Electric Pencil, told the fascinating, tragic story of Deeds. The Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne shows a retrospective of his work in 2013.
vestiges & verse : notes from the newfangled epic, american folk art museum, new york, from january 21st to may 27th, 2018.
art brut : a story of individual mythologies, oeuvres de la collection treger saint silvestre, oliva creative factory, são joão da madeira, portugal, from june 18th to february 28th, 2017.
art brut, collection abcd/bruno decharme, maison rouge, paris, from october 17th, 2014 to january 18th, 2015.
le mur, oeuvres de la collection antoine de galbert, maison rouge, paris, from june 14 th to september 21th, 2014.
art brut : breaking the boundaries, treger-saint silvestre collection, from june 1st to september 11th, 2014, curator : christian berst, oliva creative factory, sao joao da madeira, portugal.
james edward deeds : the electric pencil, paris, christian berst art brut gallery, from november 29th, 2013 to january 18th, 2014.
james edward deeds, collection de l'art brut, lausanne, switzerland, from march 15th to june 30th, 2013.
under the direction of bruno decharme and barbara safarova, art brut, collection abcd/bruno decharme, paris, flammarion, 2014.
exhibition catalogue, le mur - oeuvres de la collection antoine de galbert, paris, maison rouge, 2014.
exhibition catalogue, treger-saint silvestre collection, (from june 1st to september 11th, 2014, oliva creative factory, sao joao da madeira, portugal), paris, christian berst art brut ed., 2014.
exhibition catalogue, james edward deeds: the electric pencil, paris, christian erst ed., 2013.
the drawings of the electric pencil, electric pencil press, 2010.
selective press review
- Staff Picks: Deadened Hues, Deer Boys, Dullard Fiancés authors Rakin Azfar in The Paris Review, March 11, 2016.
- Quiet Drawings from a Life Lost in Mental Institutions authors Allison Meier in , February 9, 2016.
- le nouveau pôle de l'art brut authors Véronique Bouruet-Aubertot in Connaissance des arts, February 2015.
- l'art brut sous les feux des projecteurs authors la rédaction in La Tribune.fr, October 15, 2014.
- interview de christian berst sur l'exposition James Edward Deeds authors Laurent Goumarre in France Culture, January 14 2014.
- James Edward Deeds, entretien avec le galeriste christian berst authors Stéphanie Pioda in AMA newsletter, January 9 2014.
- La finesse de l'art brut authors Philippe Dagen in M Le magazine du Monde, January 4 2014.
- James Edward Deeds, The electric pencil authors Sophie Lespiaux in parisArt.com, January 2 2014.
- Plongée dans l'univers psychiatrique avec les dessins de James Deeds authors la rédaction in la lettre AMA, December 13 2013.
- James Edward Deeds authors Léa Chauvel-Lévy in Slash, December 9 2013.
- James Edward Deeds- Recto verso authors David Gabriel Kavafy in feuille d'ortie, December 10 2013.
- James Edward Deeds authors Philippe Dagen in Le Monde, December 8-9 2013.
- James Deeds, un trésor bien gardé authors Aurélie Romanacce in Arts Magazine, November 26 2013.
- James Edward Deeds : une BEAUTÉ électroCONVULSIVE authors animula vagula in animulavagula.hautetfort.com, November 25 2013.
- 3 days in Paris : Christian Berst présente James Edward Deeds authors Mélanie Taverny in toutelaculture.com, November 25 2013.